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Girls on Parole 

Katharine Sullivan 


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As A MEMBER of the Massachusetts Parole Board charged 
with the releasing and supervising of female offenders, I have 
optimistically attended local, state, regional, and national con- 
ferences where many able individuals presented papers on the 
various aspects of social work and its relation to crime. 

Each time I have come away with a feeling of futility. 
Medical science and psychiatry have made valuable contribu- 
tions to certain aspects of the work after the failure has taken 
place but no one individual has shed the smallest light on 
the causes of crime. 

I certainly cannot either, but I have a firm conviction that 
many crimes, probably as many as seventy-five per cent of all 
those committed by women, could be avoided if precaution- 
ary steps were taken in time. 

I have written this book in an effort to point out to the pub- 
lic the general background which festers into criminal be- 
havior. I have tried to give a factual picture as I have seen it 
of the Girls on Parole. Who are they? Where do they come 
from? What is done for them and what is not done? 

I have tried to portray with accuracy a true picture of 
social failures as they exist today. I have written from 
memory. The situations, circumstances, and episodes are 
either my own personal experiences or have been told to me 
by our agents through the years. The names are all fictitious 
and some of the cases are composite for obvious reasons. 

K. S. 


1. "I Got the Board!" 1 

2. Offenders in the Community 12 

3. The Eyes and Ears of the Board 26 

4. A Good Job Well Done 41 

5. Suggested Development of the Release 

Program 54 

6. There's Nothing like a Good Employer 62 

7. "Just Drunk?" 70 

8. There's Always Hope 80 

9. Far From Glamorous 92 

10. The Unwed Mother 101 

11. The Doll Racket 111 

12. Con Women 124 

1 3 . Teen-age Criminals 138 

14. Nasty Crimes 148 

15. Defective Delinquents 158 

16. Lifers and the Advisory Board of Pardons 174 

17. The Helpful Husbands 186 

18. Confusion Confounded 206 

19. Looking Ahead 223 

20. It's Up to You 230 

Girls on Parole 



Practically all imprisoned offenders are by operation of law ultimately released, and that 

Parole , when properly administered and carefully distinguished from clemency ,protect$ 
the public by maintaining control over offenders after they leaie prison , do declare and 
affirm that 

I The paroling authority ihould be impar- 
tial, nonpolitical, professionally competent, and able 
to give the time necessary for full consideration of 
each case; 

II The sentencing and parole law* should 
endow the paroling authority with broad discretion 
in determining the time and conditions of release; 

III The paroling authority should have com- 
plete and reliable information concerning the pris- 
oner, his background, and the situation which will 
confront him on his release; 

IV The parole program of treatment and train- 
ing should be an integral part of a system of criminal 

V The period of imprisonment should be used 
to prepare the individual vocationally, physically, 
mentally, and spiritually for return to society; 

VI The community through its social agencies, 
public and private, and in cooperation with the 
parole service should accept the responsibility for 

improving home and neighborhood conditions ia 
preparation for the prisoner's release; 

VII The paroled offender should be carefully 
supervised and promptly reimprisoned or otherwise 
disciplined if he does not demonstrate capacity and 
willingness to fulfill the obligations of a law-abiding 

VIII The supervision of the paroled offender 
ihould be exercised by qualified persons trained 
and experienced in the taik of guiding, tocia] 

IX The State should provide adequate finan- 
cial support for a parole system, including sufficient 
personnel selected and retained in office upon the 
basis of merit; 

X The public should recognize the necessity 
of giving the paroled offender a fair opportunity 
to earn an honest living and maintain self-respect 
to the end that he may be truly rehabilitated and 
tht publk adequately protected. 


BELOW ARE the conditions which a person who is released on 
parole in Massachusetts must faithfully observe. 

1. (S)He shall live and remain at liberty without violating the law. 

2. (S)He shall be honorable in all respects, work diligently at a 
lawful occupation and support his (her) dependents, if any, to the 
best of his (her) ability. 

3. (S)He shall abstain from the use of intoxicating liquors and nar- 
cotics of all kinds and shall not frequent places where they are dis- 
pensed. (S)He shall receive permission from his (her) Parole Officer 
before working in a place where liquor is sold. 

4. (S)He shall not associate with persons of questionable character, 
nor with anyone on parole nor with any person having a criminal 

5. (S)He shall not leave the State of Massachusetts without permis- 
sion of the Parole Board. 

6. (S)He shall not leave his (her) employment nor change his (her) 
place of residence without the permission of the Parole Board. 

7. (S)He shall make a full and truthful report to the Parole Board, 
134 State House, Boston, Mass., once each week for the first month, 
and thereafter once each month until the expiration of his (her) 

8. (S)He shall submit to medical treatment if ordered to do so by 
the Parole Board. 

9. (S)He shall not marry without the permission of the Parole 
Board nor without informing his (her) intended partner of his (her) 
Parole Status. 

10. (S)He shall not live with any person of the opposite sex to whom 
he (she) is not lawfully married. 

11. (S)He shall not make application for a license to hunt or to drive 
a motor vehicle without the permission of the Parole Board. 

12. (S)He shall not correspond with inmates of the State Prison, 
State Prison Colony, Reformatory For Women, Massachusetts Re- 
formatory or the Defective Delinquent Department without the 
permission of the Parole Board. 

Other conditions may be added to the above and the parolee's own 
permit should be carefully read to find this out. 

Men and women on parole when making their reports must be 
sure to give the full address of their place of residence and the name 
and address of their place of employment and must answer all ques- 
tions on their report forms. These addresses and answers must ap- 
pear in every report. 


"/ Got the Board!" 

I ARRIVED a few minutes ahead of rime at the Framingham 
Reformatory for Women on the morning of our regular 
monthly Board day, and since neither of my colleagues had 
appeared, I was in the empty locked Parole Board Room 
alone. As I waited in the warm sun by the window, I looked 
out at the little dome-shaped conservatory topped by its 
bronze-quail weather vane. 1 could see the small scarlet 
blooms beginning to appear on the Crown of Thorns, now 
that the spring sun was becoming stronger, and my mind was 
preoccupied by the appropriateness of this plant's growing 
here at the prison. I was distracted by the sound of a heavy 
key being inserted into the lock of the inside door. The 
tumblers in the lock fell in rhythmic sequence, and the door 
opened. The Deputy-Superintendent entered and with a 
pleasant "Good morning," shut the door, reinserted her key, 
and locked the door again. 

The big bare room was ready for the Board meeting. The 
huge walnut executive table, with its black imitation-leather 
top, typical of all New England county public buildings of 
the post-Civil War era, was in the center of the room. On it 
was an ink bottle, blotter, paper pad and a Woolworth ash 
tray neatly set for each Board member. Three golden-oak, 
brutally hard chairs were on one side of the table for the 
Board. On the other side was a chair for the inmate about to 
be interviewed, and another for the representative of the in- 
stitution. A shiny silver water pitcher and four crystal glasses 
were on a tray on the beige marble mantelpiece that framed 
the iron Franklin stove. Looking down from the wall was a 

large portrait of Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, 
to complete the setting. 

The Deputy explained to me that of the twenty-nine girls 
we had intended to see that day only twenty-six would be 
present. After the list of girls to be considered at this meeting 
had been submitted to the Board, two girls had been trans- 
ferred to mental health hospitals for observation and one, 
Myra, was in a nearby hospital. She was the little eighteen- 
year-old girl, who had jumped out of the courthouse window 
six months before, breaking her spine. Myra was transferred 
only last night to the Union Hospital, where, in spite of her 
crippling injuries, she had given birth normally to a fine little 
baby girl. 

Just then a key was inserted in the hall door, again the 
tumblers in the lock fell, and the door opened. In came the 
other Board members. The Chairman plumped the two heavy 
bags, holding the official case records of the girls we were 
to see, onto a chair by the table. In less than five minutes 
greetings had been exchanged, cases placed in proper sequence 
before the Chairman at the table, and each Board member had 
received a huge worksheet. The meeting was in order after 
the usual question from the Chairman, "Are we ready?" 

Receiving affirmative nods, he continued. "Helene S is 

the first girl we are to see today. Has any one a question 
about her?" 

As neither the institution nor a Board member put forth 
any question, the Chairman continued to address his remarks 
to the Deputy. "Please show Helene in." 

The Deputy rose and put her key into the huge heavy door. 
She opened it and asked Helene, who was waiting in the long 
bare institution corridor to come in. Helene stepped in and 
the Deputy relocked the door. 

"Are you Helene S ?" asked the Chairman. 

"Yes," replied the dark-eyed buxom girl of twenty-one. 

"This is the Parole Board, Mrs. McHugh on my left, Miss 

"/ Got the Board!" 3 

Sullivan on my right my name is Bradlee. Won't you sit 
down, please." 

Breathless with excitement, flushed with nervousness, her 
hair sparkling clean, Helene walked over to the chair which 
the Chairman had indicated. She sat down trembling notice- 
ably and as rigid as a ramrod. 

"Sit back and relax, Helene you are among friends. Is 
there anything you would like to tell us today?" asked the 

Helene remained just as rigid as she had for the past minute, 
sitting on the edge of the chair, her forearms on the Board 
table and her hands clasped tightly, one over the other. Then 
she replied, between gasps, "Yes, I know I have 
learned my lesson!" Having delivered that brief conden- 
sation of her life's history, she proceeded to sit back, relax, 
and breathe normally. 

To Helene, as to all other inmates, the Board spelled free- 
dom. Every inmate counts and recounts time "doing time" 
time, the very commonest yet most important topic in 
prison life. Every inmate knows the year, the month, the 
week, the day, the hour, even the minute when she will be 
free when the sentence "will be lifted" and she will be 
once more "on her own." 

The end of her sentence, however, was a long, long way 
off, and the privilege of doing time "on the street" was the 
most important thing in the world to her that day. Probably 
neither she, nor any of the other "girls" to be seen at this 
meeting, had slept well for the last few nights. We under- 
stand their excitement and have learned to expect it as part 
of the interview. But Helene's is a fairly typical case and il- 
lustrates how the parole system operates. 

She had been arrested only twice before and was serving 
her first commitment. The court had sentenced her for two 
years for "idle and disorderly conduct." Only a misdemeanor 
to be sure, and a lay person might think that she was not 

really guilty of anything. But the members of the Board had 
read her court record, knew the stories of the various officers 
involved at each of her three arrests, and had considered the 
detailed account of the probation officer's futile efforts to 
guide Helene. After her husband went overseas in the service, 
Helene hung around cafes and the streets outside them nearly 
every night, drinking up her allotment money while her baby 
lay at home in the care of a nine-year-old sitter. In spite of 
repeated warnings given her by the court and the attempts 
of the probation officers to help her, Helene had failed to keep 
a job, simply because she was too weary from her night life 
to get up in the morning. The Board not only reads the 
official record, but a complete summary of each girl's history 
which the institution's casework department provides for us 
to study in detail before the interviews. From this we learned 
that even though Helene had been going to have an illegiti- 
mate child and had had active syphilis when the judge finally 
committed her, the disease was now controlled and her new 
baby was well and healthy. 

When Helene's husband returned from overseas he had 
gone to the institution to see her. At first he was highly re- 
sentful and bitter about the situation, but a few days later, 
when he came before the Board at the State House to plead 
for her release, it was quite another story. With a jaunty 
wave of his left hand, he indicated he wished to resume family 
responsibility and would accept Helene and her new baby. 
"After all, I haven't been an angel myself always," he ob- 

At Helene's regular hearing that day, after she had served 
eleven months, the Board frankly discussed the factors which 
led to her moral collapse, and agreed that she was strong 
enough to try not to repeat the same mistakes. We voted to 
permit Helene to "go outside" and finish her sentence under 
supervision. The Chairman told her our decision, and we 
recorded our individual votes on the worksheets as the 

"7 Got the Boardr 5 

Deputy put her key once more into the big door. 

Helene rose, thanked us with dignity, and walked back 
through the open door. But before it had swung closed, we 
could hear her high gay voice ring out to the four corners 
of the institution, "I got the Board!" 

The number of cases to come before the regular monthly 
hearings of the Board varies just as the tides of arrests vary. 
Weather, war conditions, or civil cleanup campaigns brought 
about by local, state, or even national scandals cause a great 
difference in the number of women in custody. The Board's 
case load is about a year late in reflecting these conditions. A 
Board day generally includes between twenty-five and forty 

Among those we see are some inmates for whom it is their 
regular hearing; some are seen at the request of the superin- 
tendent as an aid in the management of the institution; some 
are given early consideration for special reasons; some are 
those who received an Action Pending vote at a previous 
Board meeting; all who have been seen previously and given 
a definite postponement are seen again; and all those who are 
being seen on revocation of parole. The length of time varies 
with the particular need of the individual, and many of the 
cases have received so much previous attention that the in- 
terview is merely a brief formality. 

With trained, patient, compassionate Board members, re- 
lease day is an interesting and absorbing experience. Time 
never drags. It is an endless kaleidoscope of human emotion. 
Each individual inmate is trying to be at her best. She's sell- 
ing herself to us, and the price she asks is her freedom. The 
Board in turn (as a symbol of the State) is trying to sell con- 
fidence and trust to individuals who have never known its 
meaning before. The importance of a properly conducted 
parole hearing cannot be overstressed. To the inmate Board 
day is all important because it means freedom, and to the 

Board it is one of the important steps designed to help pris- 
oners make an acceptable adjustment in society. 

One of the most vivid Board days I remember occurred 
the first year of my service. It was another case at the Fra- 
mingham Reformatory for Women. The door of the Board 
Room swung open and in stepped a middle-aged inmate, 
short, plump and visibly moved by the experience of facing 
the Board. She was immaculate in her neatly ironed but very 
faded house dress (most women wear their own clothes, and 
indeed we get diversified style shows) as she nervously took 
her seat across the long table from my two colleagues and me. 

Jane had been in prison for many years for assaulting and 
attempting to kill a neighbor with a dangerous weapon. For- 
tunately for Jane (and for the neighbor too!) the police 
arrived in time to keep her from facing a murder charge. 
However, she received a long sentence. 

Jane had been dreaming of this moment in her room many 
times during the intervening years as her family grew up 
without her. Now her children were all married, with homes 
of their own, and her husband was dead. Jane had been an 
excellent prisoner, always ready and willing to co-operate 
with reformatory officials. She told the Board about her 
work in prison, of her assurance of a home and job on the out- 
side. Yes, she had learned her lesson. She was anxious to be 
a good citizen. 

The Board members were impressed with her attitude and 
the favorable evidence in her records. Certainly she appeared 
to be a good parole risk. As she was rising to leave the meet- 
ing and we were about to give Jane a date that is, a definite 
time for her release I asked her one last question: "I am 
sure you are sorry for what you did to your old neighbor, 

The answer came without hesitation. "No, I'm not; and 
what's more I'd gladly do it all over again." 

It goes without saying that the Board couldn't possibly 

"/ Got the Board!" 7 

grant parole to a prisoner who, after many years, was still 
ready to repeat her offense. We told Jane why we could 
not release her, and we asked the superintendent to have Jane 
see the psychiatrist. We decided to delay our final decision 
on her case until after we saw his recommendation. 

Since in proper parole-release procedure the safety of so- 
ciety supersedes the interests of the individual, a situation of 
this type is one of the most puzzling that confronts a board. 
Any number of reasons could have caused Jane's violent re- 
mark everything from nervousness and stage fright to 
downright viciousness. However, a month later, when we 
saw her again at the next meeting, the psychiatrist reported 
that he did not believe that Jane was ready for release, and he 
suggested that she would benefit by further study and treat- 
ment; so the Board voted to postone its decision until the 
psychiatrist decided that she could face the responsibilities of 

That time came eight months later when we saw Jane again, 
a much improved woman. Without hesitation we voted to 
parole her, and she went to live with a married daughter who 
understood her mother's problems. Today Jane is living 
quietly in the city, where she has many good friends and new 
neighbors who enjoy her companionship and help make her 
a happy and responsible citizen. 

I have outlined Jane's case because it points up problems 
that an efficient and successful parole system must surmount. 
We are learning that the prisoner's behavior and institutional 
record may not be a true indication of her readiness for parole. 
Despite all we can discover from a prisoner's records and the 
all-important interview with the Board, the parolee's sincerity 
and her respect for moral and ethical standards are the factors 
that will determine her success. These intangibles are difficult 
to recognize. (A~prisoner must be paroled at the right psycho- 
logical moment and to keep her too long in prison is just as 
serious as releasing her too soon] 

As the typical parole interview progresses, one member 


(we take turns) starts the conversation by bringing out what- 
ever phase of the case may not be clear to the Board. Perhaps 
while she is in prison an inmate decides that she wishes to be 
separated permanently from her husband. Perhaps she sees 
that her delinquency all dates from the time she went to live 
with him, though on any marital situation we urge parolees 
to make their own decisions. We allow her to "talk out" any 
such matters in as much detail as she wishes, and we encour- 
age her to discuss her plans for her parole. We help her set 
up safeguards to preserve her new and better way of life. 
Once a girl has made a plan, her parole agent will give her 
useful advice, will often help her carry out any necessary 
Jegal steps, and even go with her to the Legal Aid Society, 
Public Welfare offices, or to any court appearances. 

A girl presented for release who may have three babies 
under five years of age and may be contemplating having to 
make two or three trips to the city for filing papers or going 
to court probably would not be able to plan and complete 
such complex missions herself. The Board reassures her that 
her agent will help her by making appointments and arrange- 
ments for some relative to take the older children, and then 
by driving the girl herself and her youngest baby to the city. 
The agent will pilot her through procedures that might other- 
wise overpower such a girl. Eventually the parolee will real- 
ize that the agent is her friend, in many cases the only one she 

At a parole hearing, in appropriate cases, the Board may 
discuss with a girl whether she should join Alcoholics Anony- 
mous or go to a psychiatric clinic, and the girl's attitude to- 
ward authority and reasonable helpful influences like these is 
very often the key to what her adjustment will be on the out- 

All the girls appear nervous at first, but after a few minutes 
we can usually establish an informal and cordial relationship 
with them. This is a terribly important step in helping us 

"/ Got the Board!" 9 

plan for the girl's future. If we have to find employment for 
a girl, as we do for the over fifty per cent who have no 
family or home to return to, her attitude toward us will be 
a sign of how she will treat her agent and future employer. 
An interesting fact about Board days is that the climate of 
the interviews is dictated by atmospheric conditions. When 
there is intense heat, humidity, and threatening thunder- 
storms, we get many tears and breakdowns, although even 
on those days far more prisoners shed tears of joy than of 
sorrow. On a clear cold day the parole interviews usually go 
along without incident on a much calmer emotional level 

At times we meet tragic girls who want to tell us things 
they have kept hidden within them for years. Natalie, a nine- 
teen-year old girl serving a sentence for idle and disorderly 
conduct, was one of these. She wished more than anything 
in life to be able to come out and find her baby. She told us 
how she had come from a broken home and how she had lived 
sometimes with a grandparent, sometimes with her mother, 
or sometimes with an aunt. 

When she was fourteen years old she had had a baby girl. 
Her confinement had been taken care of by the baby's 
paternal grandmother and, she told us, there had been no 
doctor in attendance. The baby's birth had not been regis- 
tered, and she had allowed the boy's mother to give the baby 
away. She claimed, between sobs, that she had never told 
anyone else of her tragedy, and that she could bear it no 
longer. Strange that the secret should come out years later 
at a Parole Board hearing! 

After the birth of her baby girl Natalie had returned to 
live with her own grandmother. Soon after that the baby's 
father and his entire family had moved to another city and she 
lost track of them. Search as she might, she told us, she had 
never been able to locate them or to find a clue as to her baby's 


At this hearing we decided not to vote a release for Natalie 
until we could check her story. I doubt if anyone will ever 
know whether that story is true or not, for our investigation 
proved nothing. The institution doctor who examined her 
said the story could be true, but his findings were not con- 
clusive. A search in the town where she claimed to have lived 
for one eventful week of her life revealed that a family of that 
name had lived there for a few months but had moved, leaving 
no address. Although one of our field agents contacted every 
reliable source, the police, town clerk, doctors, school offi- 
cials, and neighbors, she could find no clues leading to them. 
The question is still much mooted by our Board. Is it true? 
If so, where is the baby? Did she or someone else kill it? If 
it is not true, Natalie is a pathological liar and she should be 
faced with the truth in an effort to help in her future adjust- 

The story certainly could be true, for even though the laws 
are explicit and authorities are diligent about recording births, 
we frequently meet a girl whose history is a blank. It is one 
of the most tragic fates that can come to any person. How 
often we hear it: "I'm nobody. I'm just a nobody." Or, 
"Nobody really cares, I've been in institutions all my life 
never even had a sister." Whoever abandoned these girls 
when they were babies was sowing the seeds for a ripe harvest 
of delinquents in years to come, and unfortunately it still 

But there is humor too at Board hearings. I remember the 
day when we all got such a surprise that we were left sitting 
there with our mouths open in amazement. On this particular 
day, when the officer unlocked the door and asked Mehitable 
to come in, instead of approaching with quiet dignity like all 
the other inmates, she made a whirlwind entrance, bounding 
into the room like a deer in the forest. She came to a sudden 
stop about three feet inside of the door, which the officer 
was still holding open, and stood there just long enough for 

"/ Got the Board!" 11 

us to see that she had her hair tied up in a kerchief and that 
she held a big Bible in her hands with one finger marking the 
place where she was reading. She did not give the Chairman 
even a chance to greet her or ask her name, but took com- 
plete command of the entire situation by giving us all a hearty 
wave of her arm and stating with gay esprit, "I'll finish my 
sentence out." With that, she turned on her heel and popped 
out of the Board room as fast as she had entered, giving her- 
self one full year more of life in prison. 

No one of the Board members will ever forget the dum- 
founded expression on the face of the superintendent who 
had recommended Mehitable as ready for release. We all had 
a hearty laugh, but we concluded seriously that she would 
have been a very poor risk on parole. We learned that she 
spent every waking minute reading her Bible and we were 
quite sure we would not have been able to find an employer 
who would have been willing to pay Mehitable while she 
continued her religious study. 

From these few cases it is easy to see that the hearing at 
which we interview inmates who are eligible for parole is one 
of the most important steps in parole procedure. The rela- 
tionship established at the initial interview is really the basic 
step toward success or failure on parole. 

Offenders in the Community 

J. EDGAR HOOVER tells us that ninety-five per cent of all per- 
sons sentenced to prison return to the community sooner or 
later. Only five per cent remain there to die or are perman- 
ently lost after they escape. This fact stays clearly before us 
always during our pre-parole deliberations, especially when 
we are working with a serious offender. The theory of parole 
is that it is far better to bring out such an offender under 
supervision than it is to allow the girl to go her full time in 
prison and then slip out absolutely unnoticed, embittered by 
her experiences, corrupted by her fellow prisoners, and a far 
worse criminal than when she went in. If she comes out on 
parole, however, the local law enforcement officials will 
know where she is and where she will have to remain. She 
will be working at an approved job and living in approved 

Of the well over 3500 women criminals I have known and 
worked with, only a very few have committed a felony while 
on parole and actually under supervision. Some commit new 
crimes but generally only after they have violated the con- 
ditions of their parole, and the Board has issued a warrant for 
their return. When a girl absconds for a protracted period, 
or seriously violates her parole, the Board issues a warrant for 
her arrest. She is then in the same classification as any other 
"Wanted Criminal." The police will pick her up and she will 
be returned by an agent to the institution from which she was 

At the next meeting of the Board, after investigating the 
police report, we will let the girl tell her story and will then 

Offenders in the Community 13 

determine how long she must serve. No set rule is possible, 
and each case requires individual treatment and an individual 

Analysis shows that the most common violation is "ab- 
sconding/ 7 and that it invariably happens in the first three 
months after release, usually after about six weeks. There are 
many reasons for a girl to leave her job and her home and to 
disappear, but they can all be traced to instability. Drunken- 
ness, pregnancy, return to drugs, indiscreet conduct (often 
the return to a homosexual partner), prostitution, failure to 
pay a child's board, and petty larceny are a few of these 

But even though the agent can find no clues leading to a girl 
who has disappeared, the Board members, who know both 
the girl and her family, often feel that the girl may turn up 
and so suggest waiting a week before issuing the warrant. 
Repeatedly, after a warrant has been issued, a girl will come 
to the office and tell a truthful story, substantiated by investi- 
gation. The Board recognizes the girl's desire to co-operate 
and gives her another chance accompanied by a serious 
warning. Many of our most surprising successes have come 
after a girl has gone on a drinking spree and then realized her 
folly. She either telephones or comes in and, during a long 
interview, we explain, change, or adjust many facets of her 
plan. That way, she may set off again on an even keel for a 
sound, sensible life, whereas revoking her parole would have 
only made her bitter and resulted in her ultimate failure. 

But we do not coddle the parolees. We insist that they 
become independent and self-sufficient. By keeping a close 
watch on their jobs and on their home life, we make sure 
that they hold to a plan. At the first sign of weakness, we call 
them in for a frank talk, and many times this is enough to set 
them straight. The Board and its agents can help, but it is 
usually friends and relatives who keep a parolee on the road 
to success. 


\Educating the public to the importance of parole is a slow 
process, j The next time you read a newspaper headline about 
a parolee's being arrested for a new crime, please remember 
that that man or woman is an exception. Our success stories 
are living quietly in your community. Perhaps that nice-look- 
ing man or woman on the trolley is a former parolee. Our 
successes want it that way. They want to be accepted as good 
citizens in the community. It has been a long road back to 
respectability for some, but they are proud of their achieve- 

V Parole is not an exact science. It never will be, for when 
the human mind, heart, and personality are involved there 
always will be as many situations as there are individuals. 
Furthermore, parole procedures are so new that little or no 
material on them has been accumulated or evaluated.) In the 
face of this lack of information, we have tried to set up our 
own records as guideposts for ourselves and source material 
for future researchers. From them we have produced a few 
facts that seem reliable enough to use in trying to predict a 
girl's chances for a successful parole. An inmate who has had 
five previous arrests in recent years is a poor risk, and one who 
has served three previous commitments is even poorer. Yet, 
as the Board sits discussing a case after each member has 
read all the material available on that particular girl and talked 
with any relatives, friends, or persons who have made their 
interest known by letter, phone, or personal visit to our office 
certain hopeful factors may appear which the impersonal 
factual record did not show. Unfortunately, we know too 
that there are some criminals who are so slick, so smooth, and 
so convincing that, though their records may look encourag- 
ing, ten parole officers and two Board members working three 
shifts couldn't keep a sharp enough watch on them to make 
sure they weren't breaking the law. Balancing the probabili- 
ties and the special elements in each case challenges all parole 
personnel to stay on their toes. There is no time to get rusty 
in our world. 

Offenders in the Community 15 

\ The basic concept of parole is that the institutional pro- 

* K ^__ _^ ,...,._-,.,. - -ft.- ^ 4,, - ^ _..-^^,_~^,.. . ! i 

gram has reformed jthe indiYidiial and prepared her well 
enough for the community so that she will not want to live 
a *life similar to the one that caused her arrest. The statute 
is most explicit in describing the Board's duties and purposes. 
Section 130 of Chapter 124 of the General Laws spells out in 
detail the reasons for and the limits on granting parole per- 
mits. "No prisoner shall be granted a parole permit merely 
as a reward for good conduct or satisfactory and diligent 
performance of the duties assigned in prison, but only if the 
Board having jurisdiction is of the opinion that there is reason- 
able probability , that if such a prisoner is released, he will live 
and remain at liberty without violating the law, and that his 
release is not incompatible with the welfare of society." 

Therefore the Board's prime responsibility is deciding when 
there is "reasonable probability" that society will be pro- 
tected. It is a serious responsibility, and a reliable board will 
use every safeguard at its command before coming to a de- 

"Since parole is an agreement worked out between the in- 
mate" andtlie releasing authority as the agent for the State, 
the inmate signs and carries with her on her release permit 
a copy of the parole rules that govern her conduct and serve 
as a useful device in guarding the safety of the community. 
A technical violation of those rules is sufficient reason for us 
to revoke a parole and return an offender to prison, though, 
of course, we often do not do so. -/ 

CThus the powers of the Board are administrative as welj as 
quasi-ju^dicial Jn nature, and the responsibility is heavy. ) A 
timorous or sentimental person should never enter the parole 
field, for the work requires long hours of rugged contacts as 
well as endless deliberation and study. An emotional person 
should not enter this work, either, because he cannot be ob- 
jective in approach and therefore cannot do justice to the in- 
mate, to society, or to the job itself. 

/One of the most important safeguards set up by the statute 


(Section 134) isjhat AeJk&rjdj^ 

even in a grave em^^ her first., 

Usually, as we have seen, that interview takes" place" "SirTnir 
regular hearings, and always, every Board member is familiar 
with all the material on each girl before the interview. We 
never prejudge a case, because the facts on paper, no matter 
how complete, are only a background for the personal con- 
tact, which is the decisive factor in our judgments. The 
Legislature must have had this in mind when it framed the 
statute, and, as this brief review shows, the law governs all 
the major aspects of our procedure and the basic standards 
for our decisions. 

During the years I have been a public servant, I have 
always been surprised at how relatively few people realize 
that all public services are controlled completely by laws 
laws made by their own representatives. How sad, and some- 
times infuriating, it is to see a clipping announcing that some 
supposedly public-spirited group has passed a resolution con- 
demning us for some act or omission which the group 
doesn't like, when the solution which it suggests would be 
against the law. Clippings like this keep coming into the 
office, but the members of those groups never do. Too many 
people, like them, find it much easier to criticize from a dis- 
tance without learning the facts than to try to understand 
the problem of parole as a whole and thus help both them- 
selves and the entire community. 

Probably the greatest confusion that besets the lay person 
comes from the similarity of the words "probation," and 
"parole," and "pardon," and the fact that they are all parts 
of the penal system. A girl becomes a probationer after a 
court has found her guilty of a crime and a judge has pro- 
nounced her sentence and then suspended it. Before he does 
so, he considers the criminal's age, health, home environment, 
previous school and court record, the degree of her guilt, and 
all the other factors that indicate how dangerous to society 

Offenders in the Community 17 

the criminal may be and how much of a possibility there is of 
integrating her into the community. He discusses these fac- 
tors with his probation staff before making his final decision, 
and, if the case has hopeful elements, he puts the girl on 
probation. That means that she may live in the community 
under clearly outlined conditions. For as long as her sus- 
pended sentence lasts, she must report regularly to her pro- 
bation officer. If she violates the conditions of her probation, 
the court may at any time send her to prison to serve her en- 
tire suspended sentence. 'Probation is administered by county 

While the'word tparole" suggests a word-of-honor agree- 
ment,) it has in practice taken on a much broader meaning. 
It is the release of an individual from a penal or correctional 
institution after she has served part of her sentence. It is not 
an act of leniency or clemency; it in no way involves forgive- 
ness of the crime; it is not a reward for good conduct in an in- 
stitution. It is an administrative expedient to assist a prisoner 
who has been closely confined in an institution in making her 
adjustment to normal life in the community, to which she will 
eventually return anyway. (Parole is administered by the 
State. | 

One thing about these words is that though the general 
public may confuse them, the average lawbreaker, for whom 
parole and probation are two of the most common words in 
the language, never does. 

(Pardon is the extending of executive clemency by the 
Governor, with the consent of the Council.") It is a power 
given him under the constitution and he may either entirely 
wipe away a sentence or reduce it, or grant a temporary re- 
prieve, as in the case of a person condemned to death. The 
Governor, with the consent of the Council, may also release 
a prisoner on parole conditions. The Massachusetts Parole 
Board also serves as the Advisory Board of Pardon^. 

In this book we will be chiefly interested in parole and the 


problems it presents, but one cannot deal with parole as an 
isolated branch of social work any more than one can speak 
authoritatively on any other isolated phase of social service. 
The forces of heredity and environment so influence a per- 
son's behavior that, even in the case of one individual, the 
starting point and the stopping point of these forces are never 
clearly defined! In dealing with parole, we do know we have 
one factor common to almost all prisoners who are presented 
for release. ^ That is a history of an extended period of in- 
stability, during which forces in the community may have 
touched their lives and tried to help them without sufficient 

v v But parole differs from the work of private social agencies 
and from police preventive work in that all of our parolees in 
the community are there as a privilege granted under the law. 
The court sentence is "still running," and the Parole Board 
has the power to issue a warrant to return an offender to 
prison at any time before her sentence expires, if it deems 
such action necessary for the protection of society or the 
good of the individual herself. / 

; In attempting to carry out the duties and obligations of the 
total parole law, our contacts are as varied and numerous as 
are the strata of society. No race, religion, or economic group 
is without its failures, and in attempting to return them to the 
community, the Board, or its agents, must find a niche for 
each individual somewhere. We operate on the principle 
that somewhere there is a way of living in which each person 
can function successfully, and finding it is the first objective 
of every plan we try to help a girl develop. " 

There is no norm in our ambitions for a girl. Some exceed 
our anticipations, others fall far below. Our objective is to 
establish each girl on a plan of living that she can maintain on 
her own. Beatrice shows how far we may have to search to 
find that niche and, even more, shows the importance of 

Offenders in the Community 19 

our personal contacts with the girls. She was born on a farm 
in Maine forty-two years before she came to us, and the 
outstanding feature of her history was her IQ of 141. We 
have had quite a few women of high intelligence, but rarely 
any who scored that high. Her criminal history was very 
short, developing directly from alcoholism. She had been ar- 
rested twice for drunkenness and was serving a five-year 
sentence for adultery (which now carries a two-year sentence 
in Massachusetts). There were very few pertinent facts in 
her case history and long spaces of time which Beatrice could 
not or would not account for. The Social Service Index re- 
ported that she gave birth to a female child when she was 
nineteen and that when she was twenty-five she married a 
man whom no one had ever seen or heard from. 

Her mother, in a bleak fishing village in Maine, was most 
co-operative about taking our letter to the minister to answer 
when we first got in touch with her. Apparently there would 
be no work for her there, and the minister enclosed an under- 
standing letter telling us that liquor had long been and still 
was a problem in that family; and that the mother had nothing 
constructive to offer Beatrice. 

Married relatives in^the vicinity of Boston who understood 
"Bea" would give her bail, clothes, or Christmas dinner, but 
had tired of having her under their roofs twenty-five years 
ago. As far as we could make out she was on her own to 
plan as she willed. She denied that she had ever worked since 
her high school days and claimed that she was too much of 
a lady to do any of the routine chores at the institution. In- 
stead she made stuffed toys an interesting hobby but no 
way to earn a living, especially for someone who has no home. 

As I go over a case history to prepare for an interview I 
never fail to build up a picture of an individual, and I admit 
that I was agreeably surprised the day Beatrice walked in to 
the Board. I had imagined her as much harder, more sophisti- 
cated than the nice Bea we met! 


She was a tall, dignified, good-looking person with abso- 
lutely no guile or unusual resistance. I liked her at once. She 
quite took over the meeting and put the Board at ease. 
In the three and a half or four years we worked with 
Bea, she was always delightful, but, for the record, we never 
put in more work hours and more thinking time than we did 
with her. At the end we had the same pleasant relationship 
with her and we scored her parole a success. 

After talking generally to her that day at the Board meet- 
ing, we began suggesting jobs. She brushed aside any offers 
of the type of employment we can offer unskilled workers 
starting in the community. Would she take a job in a rest 
home? No! She "didn't like sick people." "Probably then, 
Beatrice, domestic placement for the first three months until 
you get established enough to earn some money for clothes 
and can look for your own employment? " No, she had "never 
liked housework and certainly wasn't going to do it now for 
someone else." We frequently get that comment from indi- 
viduals with superior mentality, and a year and a half in prison 
(with all living cared for by the State) doesn't serve to make 
people face life in a realistic way. 

That day we finally concluded our very pleasant interview 
with Bea by telling her we voted her a technical release, which 
meant that until she found a workable plan for herself she 
could remain inside and stuff toys! We knew it wouldn't take 
her very long to think up something, and within a week we 
received a visit from her minister. Between them they had 
developed an elaborate plan for her. A certain philanthropic 
institution of her religion would accept her on a two-week 
trial for her room and board while she filled in for the various 
staff members on their days off. Since this institution was in 
Boston she could use her spare time to find herself a job. 
These plans were checked and Bea was released. 

The first week her agent offered to take her to several places 
where day work was available, but no, she would find her 
own. Before the second week was over we got a call from the 

Offenders in the Community 21 

institution asking us to come and get her. "No. She was not 
drunk. Just didn't get up and hadn't done a single day's 
work." The officers at the philanthropic institute felt they 
had been misguided in their offer. We persuaded them to 
keep her over the week end because there was no place where 
we could lodge a woman without paying for her. If she did 
not improve over the week end, we suggested they send her 
to the State House on Monday. 

By eleven, Monday, after storing all her worldly possessions 
in a locked subway box, Bea arrived, looking fine but full of 
complaints about being rundown and needing a rest. Of 
course we are well used to this story. All malingerers start 
right in on their song of woe when faced with new situations. 
Just to be on the safe side, and to know better how to cope 
with Bea in the long years ahead, we suggested a medical 
checkup, which she gladly agreed to, as it took up one more 
day for her. When the report showed her to be in fine con- 
dition, she broke down and accepted a job at a beach resort 
caring for three children for the month of August. Labor 
Day she returned to Boston, as usual, "full of ill health" but 
looking fitter than ever in a complete outfit of clothes her 
employer had given her. By now she had convinced her 
relatives, with her winning personality, that she was a changed 
woman. They invited her back to stay a few days here and 
a week there, doing housework and cleaning for them. This 
sounded excellent, and until about the fifteenth of January, 
Beatrice shuttled back and forth between her married sisters. 
We knew it was not going well because of the complaints 
heaped on the agent's head and the phone calls to the office. 
They all told the same story: she never did any work. She 
was not drinking, associating with men, or keeping unreason- 
able hours, and there was not one single technical parole vio- 
lation. She just didn't seem to be wanted. Why? Because 
she wouldn't even get out of bed. We knew now that we 
were not making any progress and that we had come to the 
end of our resources. Before Bea started to slip radically we 


had to develop a new plan. We decided to hold a staff con- 
ference with her agent, the supervisor of the Women's Divi- 
sion, and the women Board members. In re-evaluating Bea 
with the knowledge we had gained about her in the com- 
munity, exposed to normal living conditions for several 
months, we decided we would have to retrace our steps and 
start right back at the beginning. 

With her natural charm, her physique, and her mental 
capabilities, this girl had a tremendous potential, and should 
be able to succeed in almost any field of endeavor which she 
undertook. Yet she stopped short in front of every situation 
or opportunity and just could not or would not try. We were 
sure that some deep-seated emotional problem must have been 
blocking her, so we set out to try to find it and solve it. In 
her history there was mention of the birth of a child some 
twenty-two years before, yet at the Reformatory Bea had 
been entirely unco-operative in answering any questions about 
the child or its present whereabouts, if in fact she really knew. 
I believed the child to be dead, other members of the staff 
did not agree with me, but we all felt that Bea's mental block- 
ing was connected with the fate of that child, and until she 
faced the situation no efforts of ours could bring her to a 
permanent satisfactory adjustment, At our conference we 
concluded that since I seemed to have the best relationship 
with her I should try to persuade Bea to talk out her problem. 

At first it was a long slow uphill pull, but it was always 
pleasant. Bea came for the interviews and seemed to be co- 
operating. I told her frankly that the purpose of the inter- 
views was to see if we couldn't help her understand herself, 
so that in spite of what appeared to be an inadequate person- 
ality she could come to the place where she could plan a life 
for herself where she would be comfortable. 

Slowly, as she gained confidence in herself and in me, she 
unraveled her life story and, when she came to the birth of 
the child, she seemed extremely glad to tell someone about the 
little daughter she had given to friends without ever having 

Offenders in the Community 23 

seen her. The baby had never been legally adopted, and Bea 
had kept track of her through second- and third-hand reports. 
By this time the girl was married and living in western Penn- 
sylvania with her husband and two children. After this 
revelation, we were really friends and all seemed clear sailing. 
She was able to settle down and live with one of her sisters. 
She worked in stores, planning to save enough to go to see her 
daughter and grandchildren on a summer vacation. A series 
of letters sent through friend-to-friend channels, proved it 
would be a most welcome idea. The daughter was about to 
be confined and "the new grandmother" could care for the 
son-in-law and other two babies while her daughter was in 
the hospital. Beatrice was overjoyed the day we gave her 
permission to leave the state. So were we all! If this only 
worked out, it really might be the solution for her. 

The letters the first two weeks were most encouraging. The 
new baby arrived and was a girl to be called Beatrice. Her 
own daughter was a "great beauty" she said, which we could 
well imagine. 

The next week the Chief of Police of the Pennsylvania 
town called. "Her son-in-law could stand her no longer. She 
was dead drunk and wouldn't get up. He wouldn't support 
her any longer." Now she was at police headquarters, where 
she had sobered up and told them she was on parole. Follow- 
ing the usual routine, they got in touch with us. Since this 
was her first real drunk, the Board after much discussion 
decided to give her another chance and arranged through the 
Travelers' Aid to pay her fare back to Boston. In two days 
an unruffled Beatrice arrived bag and baggage at our office. 
The Board seemed to be back where we had started, but we 
did feel we had made some constructive gains because we had 
a real relationship with Bea. She admitted she needed help and 
came back voluntarily for it. And the big mental block had 
been removed. 

Bea's physical condition had deteriorated so much that we 
concluded she undoubtedly had been secretly drinking for 


a long time before her one glorious spree. We arranged for 
a physical checkup, which more or less substantiated our sus- 
picions, although she constantly denied the drinking. She was 
put on a multiple vitamin therapy by public clinic doctors. 
After she was on this a while she saw the wisdom of joining 
Alcoholics Anonymous and attending regularly. 

Once more Bea co-operated. She went back to live with 
another sister this time. She felt she could earn more money 
by getting a job doing stitching in a raincoat factory, and she 
surprised us by staying at it. But at home her behavior fol- 
lowed the same pattern, until her sister refused to keep her 
any longer. When Bea walked into the office late one Friday 
afternoon in some smart, though worn, fall clothes her sister 
had given her, she was absolutely sober! 

This time she really had a surprise for us. She said that 
although she had never admitted it to anyone, her husband was 
alive. He lived in a room in a nearby city and she had been 
seeing him off and on during her parole. Now she wanted to 
go and live with him. In all our talks she had always claimed 
the marriage had never been compatible, since he was much 
older and they had nothing in common intellectually. She 
now wished to join him and commute to her factory job. 

A quick check with the Welfare Department brought out 
that her husband was living on Old Age Assistance, and needed 
care. This endless succession of shifts and plans surely made 
for a rough parole, but no supervisory department is going to 
tell husband and wife whether they will live together or not. 
That is for them to decide. Bea soon decided living with her 
husband didn't work, and, risky as it seemed, we determined 
that Bea's last and only course was to get herself a room with 
cooking facilities somewhere near her job. 

She was called before the full Board, and the supervisor and 
agent summarized her case. After the discouraging recital, the 
Chairman gave her a final warning and told her that this was 
her last shift. She either adjusted here or she would have to 

Offenders in the Community 25 

return to the institution. Bea was as agreeable as ever, told 
us she didn't blame us at all. She would do the same thing in 
our position. 

A long, hard winter followed. The room was in the poorest 
part of Boston's South End, but Beatrice kept going pretty 
well. Once in a while she would take a whole day off from 
work just to drop in to talk to each of us. Sometimes she 
wrote us long letters, or telephoned. Her agent visited her 
every week and always found her sober or appearing so. 
Bea spent her birthday and the anniversary of her brother's 
death with us and sometime during every holiday she came 
to see us. Suddenly came what we all felt would probably be 
the major calamity! She really did get sick and had to have 
an operation. Her agent was able to arrange a two-week con- 
valescence for her at a Red Feather home, and, to our amaze- 
ment, she returned to her stitching job, her modest room, and 
her life with the A.A.'s at once! She now had been dry so 
long that she moved up to the "twelfth-step club" and became 
so absorbed in helping others along the different steps that she 
quite forgot about herself. 

At last came the big day of Beatrice's Good Conduct Re- 
lease. She took the day off from work to come into the office 
so that we could hand the release directly and personally to 
her. We were all immensely relieved and gratified. By actual 
count the department had planned and executed twenty-eight 
different situations for her. In the end we seemed to have 
found her a worthwhile world that she could function in. 
Bea was effusive in her thanks and left us feeling she truly 
liked us and that we had really helped fulfill a great need in 
her life. I guess we had, because from that day to this we have 
never heard a word from her not even a Christmas card. 
As to her record, she has never been arrested again. I per- 
sonally feel she will walk in the office late some Friday after- 
noon before a holiday to wish us well. After all her troubles, 
we certainly wish the same to her. 


The Eyes and Ears of the Board 

IN THE COURSE of the Parole Board's deliberation of a per- 
plexing case, it is not unusual for the Chairman to observe: 
"If it please the Board, I would like to postpone further action 
on this case until the next time this girl's agent is in. Even 
though her running record is very graphic, we might gain a 
slightly different perspective by talking with the agent." 
After all, our agents are the eyes and ears of the Board. 

Although the duties of parole agents differ in detail from 
state to state, their responsibilities and scope of supervision 
have evolved into a distinct standard for most of the pro- 
gressive states. Policy making, release, and reimprisonment 
remain the function of the Board itself, while the supervision 
and field investigations, including recommendations for re- 
vocation of parole, are appropriately the duties of the agents. 

The relationship between the Board and agents is of tre- 
mendous importance. Mutual trust, understanding and con- 
fidence must be established as a continuing process or the 
system will disintegrate and fall apart. While "the welfare of 
society" is our first concern, as the statute on parole directs, 
we realize that in the nature of things some of the released 
prisoners will fail. The agent must therefore have the rare 
sense of immediately recognizing the parolee who has begun 
to slip the one who is becoming restless, irresponsible and 
unstable, and who seems headed toward her previous pattern 
of criminal behavior. The agent who can avert this reversion 
is doing both society and the parole system an obvious but 
nonetheless great service. 

In the cold light of statistics, one more revocation of parole 

The Eyes and Ears of the Board 27 

may to the lay person appear to be a failure, but to the agent, 
and to the parolee herself, the return to custody may prove 
a constructive step gladly accepted. Many times, indeed, a 
parolee realizes that she isn't ready or isn't strong enough to 
remain "outside" and she will plead with her agent to go back 
to prison. This is not as unusual as one might expect and 
usually occurs within the first three months after release. 

It is an agent's responsibility to devote as much time as 
necessary to a girl who is not adjusting. If the agent cannot 
solve the problem, she should bring it directly to the parole 
supervisor who is in charge of all the female agents. She in 
turn, if unable to resolve the problem, will bring the matter to 
the Board for immediate discussion. 

One of the older officers told me of an experience she had 
many years ago which I hope will never be duplicated again. 
She had a very young girl, ironically named Felicia, on parole 
in her district in the northern part of the state. This girl was 
not adjusting as well as we had hoped in the domestic place- 
ment where the officer had left her. She belonged to a most 
tragic group of misfits. She was an illegitimate child who, 
because of her mother's diseased condition, was not con- 
sidered adoptable; because of her own personality, Felicia had 
been kicked around from one foster home to another all her 
life. At the age of twelve, she had been committed to a school 
for juvenile girls. Handicapped by low mentality, she began 
to show marked resistance to all well-intentioned efforts to 
help her, and as the years went on she exhibited continued 
combativeness and hostility to all authority. The unwanted, 
unloved seventeen- or eighteen-year-old child became a pa- 
rolee of the most challenging type. Previous experience tells 
us only too clearly that the chances of successful adjustment 
here are less than with almost any other type of female 
offender. Yet, after all, are not their whole lives before them? 
W^jregardjgarole as the golden opportunity, and in each case 


^ It is our responsibility 

to leave no stone unturned in our efforts to help these girls 
find a niche in life. 

Felicia's case, while typical, was extremely difficult. She 
had no one at all. There were no brothers, sisters, parents, 
and no husband or children. She had never known affection, 
faith, or confidence of any sort from any individual. In the 
various institutions she could never make friends with the 
other girls and was constantly ridiculed by them, which only 
intensified her aggression and hate. 

We released her on parole when the institution recom- 
mended. The psychiatrist said he felt longer institutionali- 
zation would be detrimental and that she had matured enough 
so that trial in the community was indicated. 

Her agent found her a suitable placement with an under- 
standing employer where there were two sweet little girls, 
aged four and six. Even with them, Felicia remained a solitary 
being. At the same time her agent felt she was making some 
progress with her; and on her biweekly visits Felicia now and 
again began to talk and confide in her. She even greeted the 
agent cordially on her third visit, as contrasted with her cus- 
tomary sullen hostility. They talked on many topics and 
finally Felicia summed it all up in that tragic statement social 
workers hear so often: "I'm nobody. Why can't someone 
tell me who I am? No one ever wanted me, no one ever will!" 

Felicia went on to tell the agent of her hatred for all insti- 
tutions and all the members of their staffs. Of course, as long 
as the girl remained on her job and did not "run," she would 
sit down and talk with her agent. This was marked progress. 
Felicia even went as far as to tell the parole agent she wished 
she could write poetry to express herself. Her face lighted up 
when she recounted how she had had a little mouse who came 
to her window at the institution at dawn each morning and 
how she took food scraps from the refectory each night so 
she might feed her mouse the next day. 

Finally, Felicia told the agent she had never got a letter, a 

The Eyes and Ears of the Board 29 

package, or a Christmas card in all her life. She wondered if 
the agent could find someone who would write her just one 
letter someday. Of course, the agent agreed that she would 
try to find a correspondent. How little most of us properly 
value the assets of normal family and community life! 

On the next office visit, the agent and the parole supervisor 
talked over the progress Felicia was making. They agreed 
that they needed to supply her with someone to whom she 
could give or from whom she could receive affection. They 
fully appreciated that her solitary life in domestic placement 
was designed only as a steppingstone along the path of adjust- 
ment. In a few short months, when Felicia's sentence was 
over, the agent would have to withdraw, and the girl would 
then be on her own without the moral support of the agent, 
who frankly feared that under these circumstances Felicia 
would in short order revert to her previous pattern of behavior. 

With long-range planning in mind, the agent restudied 
Felicia's whole file. She ran across a brief reference to a 
maternal aunt and an address where she had lived some years 
previously. The record indicated that the aunt had taken no 
interest whatever in the girl in the early years when welfare 
officers had explored the situation. But the agent decided to 
try to locate the aunt and see if there could be any possibility 
here of finding someone who could help Felicia feel that u she 

It took several weeks for the agent to locate the aunt. She 
had moved several times, and each location where some old 
neighbor "thought she might be found" turned out to be in 
a lower and more dilapidated part of the city. That particular 
winter had been extremely severe, one snowstorm falling on 
top of the other in an endless succession. The narrow streets 
were almost impassable in the slum area where the agent finally 
believed she had located Felicia's aunt. Parking her car on 
the plowed main street, the agent set off on foot between the 
sordid taverns, up a slippery unsanded footpath, past the 
public alley behind the row of stores where the reek of 


garbage, refuse, sweepings of hair from the barber shop, and 
the vomit and filth from the tavern were being explored by 
the usual handful of ragged little waifs who either were not 
old enough for school or whose parents didn't bother to send 
them. Up the hill she cautiously made her way, turning a 
sharp corner into the street she was looking for without pass- 
ing or directly meeting a single human being. 

An agent always realizes she is conspicuous as a stranger 
in such an area and that every household somehow becomes 
immediately aware of her presence. Many people in these 
neighborhoods live outside the law, and they always keep 
absolutely quiet and out of sight until they size up a stranger 
and find out whose house she is going to and why. The fact 
that the agent was dressed in civilian clothes made her more 
of an enigma, so she had to spend many difficult minutes look- 
ing for the actual house. In this very old rundown part of 
the city, dating back to early colonial seafaring days, the 
houses were originally built for single dwellings and some 
were set in back of the others, making the sequence of the 
numbers almost hopeless to follow. 

Finally she located the right house by almost bumping her 
nose on it as she slipped on the unshoveled high mound of 
snow that had slid off the roof onto the sidewalk. After all, 
in this area, no one ever owns a shovel, and since the houses 
are flush with the sidewalk, where would you put the snow 
anyhow? In slum areas, snow removal is not a topic to be 
considered or even discussed. Here life is concerned with 
only the simple, elementary necessities of existence. 

Most people who have retreated to the slums do so slowly, 
because of one failure after another. They are certainly not 
here through choice, but only because either financially, 
morally, mentally, or physically their senses are numbed and 
they no longer have power to fight back. Normal children 
born here fight instinctively to get out into the fresh world 

The Eyes and Ears of the Board 31 

The parole agent had a nostalgic feeling for the builders of 
this beautiful old house as she slowly groped her way in 
through the battered front door set between colonial pilasters 
which were now tilted and sagging and ready to crumple 
under the next big snow slide. Once inside, she proceeded 
cautiously along the dark hall. The entire house had an odd, 
ominous quiet, broken by the distant thin tinkle of music, 
which indicated someone at home somewhere with a radio 
playing. Unable to find her way around in the dark, she 
turned back to open the street door and let in what little light 
was still available on that late wintry afternoon. As her eyes 
became accustomed to the gloom, she discovered there were 
no names on the mailboxes and the bells had long since been 
demolished. The hall was obviously the main hall in a fine old 
city mansion with a Greek cornice; one or two of the original 
banisters, exquisitely carved, remained on the sweep of the 
staircase. All of the others, as well as the traditional mahogany 
handrail, had undoubtedly long since been used for firewood 
by the tenants, and a crude golden-oak newel post shored up 
with angle irons bore witness to the many drunken lodgers 
who had hung on it in recent years. 

A peculiar acrid odor tormented the agent's nostrils as she 
fumbled her way around the lower hall. She stopped and took 
stock for a minute. Was it nonsense to go on? After all, she 
was here to find a contact which would be a constructive help 
for Felicia and she sensed now, without going farther, the 
evident hopelessness of her mission. This environment surely 
would have nothing to offer, she thought, as her right foot 
slipped hazardously in some dog dung in the middle of the 
hall floor. She retreated to the street door to scrape her shoe 
clean on the step. She thought briefly of walking away. But 
since she had spent so much time and since it was the last call 
of the afternoon, she decided to find the aunt, if only to 
satisfy her curiosity. 

To her left and toward the rear she saw a crack of light 


coming under the door. Proceeding with caution and still 
bothered by the smell of something burning, she reached the 
door safely and knocked. There was no response. Louder 
knocks still brought no answer. She called out the aunt's 
name and was sure she felt the presence of a person on the 
other side of the door. She called the aunt by name again, 
and a soft, gentle voice inquired as to who was there. 

The agent explained she was a friend of her niece, Felicia. 
(An agent is trained never to embarrass an individual in public 
or in earshot of neighbors by indicating her mission or the 
fact that she is a special policewoman.) The door was opened 
cautiously by a small woman, appearing to be in her middle 
fifties, who waved the agent in and then rebolted the door. 

One small old-fashioned eight-watt light bulb one of 
those real old-timers, egg-shaped with a sharp point of glass 
at the end lighted the room. Inadequate as it was, after 
the gloom of the hall it appeared dazzling. The room itself 
was evidently a kitchen; at least it contained a high gas range 
and a rusty iron sink (with one leg broken off) propped on 
a wooden box. There was a chair directly in front of the gas 
oven door and another chair with no back. The other fur- 
nishings consisted of a calendar (four years old) and a plain 
table nothing more. 

The aunt was one of those amazing little sparrows who 
seem to wear so well. They appear never to gain weight or 
lose it. They change very little with time, their figures re- 
maining compact and attractive under all kinds of stress and 
strain. Her hair, pure white and naturally curly, was cut 
short. She wore a rather rumpled navy blue taffeta dress, with 
a man's gray sweater thrown over her shoulders to protect 
herself against the bitter cold. 

The agent was puzzled to find a woman of this physical 
appearance living in the area at all. Generally the women in 
a dilapidated waterfront area are a sorry lot: there are the 
very young girls who are always pregnant, dirty, and tired; 

The Eyes and Ears of the Board 33 

the old women, who haven't changed their clothes or washed 
their hair in a quarter of a century, and have reached the stage 
of exhaustion or laziness where they just sit; the transient crop 
of prostitutes, drunks, misfits and feeble-minded who hide 
there; and lastly the few respectable families, who have lived 
there always or have taken refuge there because of some 
recent disaster, and will not stay long. 

Auntie was an enigma (and still is), for she did not fall in 
any of these categories. The most logical explanation was 
that she had recently spent some months in an institution, 
where she had been rested and cleaned up and provided with 
the blue taffeta dress on her departure. If our guess is accurate, 
she had just returned to her old haunts and her life of prosti- 
tution, but had not yet started to drink again. 

Auntie offered the agent a seat, even graciously giving her 
a choice. She accepted the backless chair. With typical so- 
cial-worker wisdom and experience, she moved it slightly 
away from the wall, hoping nothing would crawl aboard her 
person in the few minutes she intended to be there, but, 
putting her hand up to loosen the collar of her coat, she 
accidentally hit the calendar with her fingertips and down 
rained a shower of vigorous, healthy cockroaches. Neither 
Auntie nor the agent took notice of this little incident. 

Auntie seemed pleased to have a visitor. She jauntily ar- 
ranged herself on the other chair and with one motion swung 
her pretty legs and feet into the oven, where she apparently 
kept them for the winter. She then turned and picked up a 
Sandwich glass compote, two-thirds filled with skags (butts 
retrieved from around church doors or subway stations), and 
passed it toward the agent, asking at the same time if she 
smoked. Her visitor declined on the grounds that she did 
not, and after Auntie lit up, the agent briefly touched on the 
reason for her visit. 

Auntie was quite debonair about her niece, but because of 
the housing shortage she was afraid she could do nothing for 


her relative. She told the agent that she and her "son/' who 
was now thirty, lived in these two rooms and were really 
rather crowded as it was. 

As she talked on, the agent scanned the surroundings in 
order to write a fair appraisal for her report. She counted 
eleven huge heaps of scrap metal lying helter-skelter on the 
kitchen and living-room floors. There were the wheel and 
head of a sewing machine. Bolts, nuts, bars, pins, rollers, en- 
gine blocks, fly wheels, and chains were everywhere. Some 
heaps were partially covered, one with an old coat, another 
with a torn red curtain. Over, around, and under was mixed 
in more dirt, filth, debris and rubbish than the agent had 
ever seen before and she had spent her life with the dere- 
licts of society. This indeed was the bottom. 

Auntie chattered on about the overcrowding and, as the 
agent was by now somewhat fascinated by the little bird, she 
drew her out a bit. The scrap about the room was just a kind 
service her son was doing "for a friend." No, he wasn't in 
the junk business "No, no indeed!" 

When the visitor commented on the apparent lack of dishes 
and provisions, Auntie said, "We found it easier and less ex- 
pensive to eat out." 

"What about sleeping accommodations in case your niece 
should think of visiting?" asked the agent. 

Auntie indicated with a grand gesture the astonishing facili- 
ties in the closet or cubicle off the room in which they were 
sitting. There was a single bed, without sheets, pillow, or 
pillowcases, with only a foul, sloppy mattress, with wads of 
excelsior protruding here and there, partially covered with a 
grim gray dingy comforter. Nothing more. 

At this point in the tete-a-tete, the agent gained ground. 
Auntie sensed for once she was losing out. Recoiling for a 
moment under her guest's questioning gaze, Auntie swiftly 
rebounded to explain that, because of the housing shortage, 
things weren't just as she and "her son" would like them, 

The Eyes and Ears of the Board 35 

but since he worked nights they were able to get along nicely. 
Our agent noted that the front room contained only one 
piece of furniture, a sorry-looking davenport badly butt- 
sprung and without cushions. More and larger heaps of metal 
scrap, wrenches, tools, batteries, and jacks occupied every 
available foot of floor space. 

Experienced interviewer that she was, the parole agent 
found herself at a loss as to just how to conclude the discus- 
sion and get out quickly before she exploded at such dis- 
gusting living conditions. She was looking for a way out 
when to her amazement she sighted four books piled neatly 
on the gas stove and a fifth laid face-down open across one 
of the burners on the stove. Buttoning her coat, she rose, 
casually thanked Auntie for her co-operation and said she was 
sorry to have interrupted her reading, to which Auntie re- 
plied that she was almost through The Keys of the Kingdom 
and that when she finished she would have to go out. She'd 
have to return the books to the library herself, for "her son" 
never seemed able to pick out the type of literature she en- 
joyed. With that graceful conclusion, the agent shook hands 
with Auntie, unbolted the door, cautiously and slowly groped 
her way down the hall, and stepped out into the crystal clear 
of a cold winter twilight. 

Later she gave her supervisor the details of her visit. They 
concluded that Felicia was indeed lucky to have been aban- 
doned in early childhood and that, lonely as she was in her 
domestic placement in a respectable country town, there are 
far worse tragedies in life than to have to start at seventeen 
and work up the ladder of life. 

The agent decided no good would come of her mentioning 
the visit to Felicia, particularly since she was successful in 
finding a friendly visitor in a nearby town who volunteered 
to take Felicia to the movies once every two weeks, to write 
her an occasional letter and show interest during the holiday 


About six weeks later, headlines appeared in the metropoli- 
tan papers, "Aged Woman Found Murdered/' The press 
went on to tell the sordid details of the death of an elderly 
woman whom neighbors had missed. Upon investigation, 
they found she had been beaten and robbed. Her clothing 
had been saturated with kerosene and set afire before she was 
dead. Blood from her wounds had put out the fire after part 
of the floor had burned away. Because of the extreme cold 
weather, her body was frozen stiff and the vicious crime went 
undetected. About all that was generally known about her 
was that she was very old, partially blind, owned her own 
house, and kept a large sum of money on her person. This 
was money she received as rent from the rooms and apart- 
ments in her rambling old house. 

The police investigation quickly uncovered the fact that 
"Slimey" Tilton, a former inmate of the State Prison, had been 
released after serving his full time in the late fall and had hired 
one of the old lady's apartments. Tilton lived there for several 
weeks in the middle of winter. Nothing had been seen of him 
in recent weeks. It was known that several women lived with 
him during his stay at this address. 

The police took Slimey into custody within three days and 
charged him with murder. A male confederate was also 
rounded up and charged with being an accessory. 

While they were awaiting trial, spring came and the layers 
and ridges of snow and ice slowly melted and receded. To the 
horror of neighbors along that narrow little street, the arm of 
a woman protruded through the snow in the back yard. The 
police dug up the bruised and battered body of a brown- 
haired, heavily built woman, wedged partway through a hole 
in the old wooden fence in the back yard of the same house 
where the elderly landlady had been robbed, murdered, and 
partly burned. 

The police were never able to identify the second body and 
neither was our agent, who had realized with a shudder of 

The Eyes and Ears of the Board 37 

horror that the murders had taken place in that same house 
where she had gone to visit Felicia's aunt. At least one of the 
murders must have taken place before her visit, for she now 
recalled that haunting acrid odor of burning flesh that had 
permeated the entire dark hallway that day. She took a trip 
to the morgue, just to make sure that one of the victims was 
not Auntie, feeling all the time that it was only by the grace 
of God that she too was not lying on one of the cold slabs. 
The agent did not know the victim, and Auntie was never 
located, but my guess would be that she is still pursuing her 
profession and her literary habits in some skid row some- 
where, be it Boston's South End, Sands Street in Brooklyn, 
or in San Francisco's Barbary Coast. 

Whereas this was an extreme situation for we all agree 
that going into a house that contains the frozen bodies of two 
murdered women is unusual dealing either with the or- 
ganized underworld or the bottom rung of the ladder is a 
constant hazard. In numberless cases the families of parolees 
are more disturbed personalities than the individuals who have 
served time, and they must all be handled with boundless 
patience, tact, and great kindness. 

There are other groups with whom an agent must con- 
stantly be firm or she will be both deceived and imposed upon, 
but to all the former inmates and their immediate families the 
agent is the symbol of the State the State that took their 
freedom from them once. What it has done once, the State 
could do again, so usually the "State Lady," because she has 
the State behind her, leads a charmed life, protected by her 
friends, her clients, and the underworld wherever she goes. 

Despite the fact that they have to be firm, strong-minded 
women, most agents are amazingly charitable and are always 
doing small deeds of kindness behind the scenes. How many 
times I have known an agent to send a carton of cigarettes or 
a box of candy to a lonely hospitalized parolee at Christmas 


or Eastertime; and they all maintain a steady stream of 
get-well and congratulations-on-the-birth-of-the-baby cards, 
which they pay for with their own money. 

One incident that epitomizes their finest traditions was the 
unfailing devotion an agent gave to Delia before she died. 
Delia was Irish-born and raised and for all the world resembled 
nothing so much as a wooden rake, about six feet one inch tall 
and as gaunt as gaunt can be. She had hair the color of dried 
wood which hung lank and drab to her shoulders and arms 
so transparently thin that even though they hung straight 
down by her sides you never noticed them at all. 

During the twenty years Delia had been in this country she 
had hung up a record of forty-seven arrests for drunkenness. 
She had spent many, many months in the county jails on 
sentences for some of these arrests but was serving a five-year 
sentence for adultery at the time of her parole. She did not 
have a friend or a relative in this country and had only been 
out a very short time when she was hospitalized for a serious 
sickness, which proved to be inoperable cancer. 

Since Delia was dying and had certainly not violated the 
conditions of her release, the procedure of issuing and serving 
a warrant to return her to the Reformatory for medical care 
seemed unusually cruel to us all. When, therefore, her agent 
told us that the Rose Hawthorne Hospital, which accepts only 
penniless incurable cancer patients, would take Delia, we were 
more than happy to approve the plan. Delia's ride from the 
municipal hospital where she had been to the Rose Hawthorne 
was to be her last, and she knew it. She asked her agent, who 
was driving her, to stop at the State House so she could make 
a personal visit to thank the members of the Board for allow- 
ing her to go to a private hospital to die. I'll frankly admit 
that every Board member was seen wiping his or her glasses 
just after Delia and her agent left the Board room that day. 

In a few weeks poor Delia took to her bed for the last time, 
but she lived more than two years, and every time the agent 
was in the city, at least once and often two or three times a 

The Eyes and Ears of the Board 39 

month, she stopped in for a visit and brought her some small 
present. The visits of an agent under such circumstances 
would be just friendly visits. No one in the hospital other 
than the Mother Superior knew of Delia's parole status and 
she certainly would never have disclosed the secret. 

At last the end came peacefully and mercifully and in the 
agent's running record of Delia's case under the date of the 
severest blizzard of that winter she made her final entry. 

February 13. Attended funeral mass at 7.30 A.M. No relatives 
or friends present at Hospital Chapel. Burial in private cemetery 
on Hospital grounds. CASE CLOSED. 

Another case that shows the wonderful charity and hu- 
manity of our agents was Lillian's. She was a girl with a back- 
ground much like Delia's, but she had T.B. and was confined 
to a county sanatorium where she had undergone one lung 
operation but had failed to recover the way we had hoped she 
would. She was an intelligent woman, so when the doctors 
told her she would have to have radical surgery, she knew how 
sick she was. Pier letter telling us this was one of the most 
moving I have ever read. In it she told us that before the 
doctors would even try the operation she needed five blood 
transfusions to build up her strength. She said that the blood 
bank could provide for the transfusions, but she knew their 
reserve was low, and she was afraid the amount of blood she 
needed would deprive someone else, when their future meant 
more than hers; therefore she was not going to accept the 
treatment or allow the operation. 

The agent read the letter and pinned it up on the office 
bulletin board with a note saying that she herself was going 
to be a donor for Lillian on the following Monday and that 
any other volunteers would be most welcome to join her. 
Five members of the Women's Division gave blood that next 
Monday, and the Red Cross notified the sanatorium that the 
required blood had been anonymously donated. 

Lillian had the necessary surgery, and when she was well 


enough her agent told her who the donors had been. I am 
glad we do not have to help our clients that way too often, 
for an interesting sidelight on the episode was that two of our 
staff, who are trained to deal with the toughest criminals with- 
out a sign of fear or nervousness, fainted dead away on the 
laboratory floor the morning we were giving blood. 

Not only did Lillian recover physically, she completed a 
most satisfactory parole and not long after that appeared at 
the office with a nice-looking man she introduced to us as her 
new husband. In cases like this and innumerable others, the 
agent is the unsung heroine of happy success stories. She is 
also, through her daily running accounts to the Board of the 
actual living conditions, our contact with the pulse of the 
community into which we must decide whether or not to 
release our girls. 


A Good Job Well Dane 

AN AGENT'S DUTIES start soon after the Board votes to parole 
an inmate. The parole supervisor returns the next day to the 
institution to interview all the women who have been voted 
release. She arranges the most minute details and sees that they 
are explained personally to each individual. We believe this 
to be one of the most important steps in the entire release 
procedure, one of the vital pegs on which success or failure 

All workers in the rehabilitation field know that sympathy 
and humane treatment are the most efF ective tools with which 
to guide their clients. There is, however, always the excep- 
tional soul who presents a tremendous challenge. Alone in 
this private interview with the parole supervisor, twenty-four 
hours after being told she is to be released, the inmate fre- 
quently reveals many new problems. 

The supervisor goes over the plan in detail, making sure 
she has the correct names and street addresses of the town or 
city. She gives the inmate an opportunity to bring up any 
phase of her plans that may be troubling her. Like the four- 
year-old boy who wants the largest ice cream cone in the 
world and can't eat a third of it when he gets it, the inmate, 
during her months of incarceration, may have built a dream 
plan. When it is about to become a reality, she may realize 
that it just won't work, and this is her chance to bring it in 
touch with practicality. 

This extra pre-release heart-to-heart talk provides the in- 
mate an opportunity to feel she really knows her supervisor 
and can trust her as a friend. Conversely, the supervisor gets 


a chance to size up her charges and estimate their personali- 
ties. Every month there are two OF three inmates who wish 
to make radical changes, after sleeping a night on their pro- 
posed plan. The supervisor is well skilled in judging whether 
these changes are wise and valid, or whether they are just part 
of the general instability that social derelicts are subject to. 
If the plan falls within general parole rules and previously 
established procedures, it is the responsibility of the supervisor 
and her agents. If not, she must confer with the Board. 

The parole supervisor returns to the central office after 
interviewing all those voted release. She then assigns these 
cases to the agents. At this point the parole staff starts a run- 
ning record for each individual parolee. It is headed with a 
summary compiled from all the data supplied by the State 
Department of Correction, the police, probation, and the full 
court summary, as well as the findings of the Board's own 
investigation. To this the supervisor adds the Board's vote, 
any individual restrictions it may have added to the usual terms 
of parole, her own observations, and detailed instructions on 
home and work. The agents' territory is set up so that the 
case load is kept relatively uniform with from fifty to sixty 
cases per worker. The parolees are assigned to the agent in 
whose territory the court that committed them is located. 

After studying her newly assigned cases, the field agent 
makes a home investigation. If the agent finds it suitable, she 
fills out a form called a home blank, which is signed by the 
mother, sister, or husband whoever is the responsible head 
of the household stating a willingness on the part of the 
signer to accept the parolee back home. The signer also agrees 
to communicate with the Board if the parolee does not observe 
the rules the agent has carefully explained. If there is suitable 
work available, the agent visits the proposed place of employ- 
ment to arrange the type of work, wages, and hours, to explain 
in a general way the parolee's status, and to ask the intended 
employer to sign a work blank. This simply requires the 

A Good Job Well Done 43 

employer to notify the Board if the parolee leaves her em- 
ployment, but doesn't force him to keep any unsatisfactory 

If the parolee has no feasible plan, it is the agent's responsi- 
bility to help her make one and arrange all the necessary details 
for it. Should the girl have no home to return to, the agent 
finds her a job with a living-in arrangement, usually as a 
domestic, hospital, or nursing-home worker. 

In the protected environment of the Reformatory, inmates 
have little opportunity to do things for themselves. Food, 
clothing, shelter, the schedule for rising, working, eating, and 
resting is all provided for them. Thus the transition to a self- 
sustaining program alone outside may be too much of a strain 
on the average parolee starting her test in the community. 
And I want to re-emphasize that parole is only a test. These 
women are still under court sentences, and it is not by right 
but as a privilege that they "go out" to finish their sentences 
in normal living conditions, but still under supervision. 

To return to our routine procedure, as soon as the agent has 
submitted the approved home and work blanks on an indi- 
vidual, the Board issues the Parole Permit with the date and 
terms of the parole attached. 

In most cases the parolee travels alone to her destination, 
but when she is going to a domestic placement, or to live in 
an isolated rural area, or if she has children with her at the 
Reformatory, the agent arranges to drive her to her destina- 
tion. The agent also provides the parolee with report blanks, 
which are forms that, regardless of developments, the parolee 
must mail to her agent weekly. The parolee must notify us if 
there is any change in her home address or place of employ- 
ment. Each parolee is told that she may phone our office 
collect any time she wishes advice. The agent visits her once 
a week in the beginning and every two weeks thereafter, 
usually arriving unannounced so she can construct a true, 
rather than a rehearsed, picture of the girl's progress. 


One day a week each field agent comes to the office. That 
day she arranges all office interviews and dictates the summary 
of all weekly visits to parolees. This "running record" en- 
ables the Board to have an up-to-the-minute word picture of 
all its parolees at all times. These records are more important 
for failing cases than for successful ones, since as we have seen, 
failures happen quickly and suddenly, while success is gen- 
erally a long, slow, systematic process. In the period between 
institution hearing dates, the Board studies these running rec- 
ords in overseeing the field work. After the discussion with 
the agent, we may decide to make a complete review of any 
cases that are seriously slipping and make any revisions of 
the parole plan that may be necessary. This may involve many 
persons but it also may eventually solve many problems. I 
remember one case in particular which clearly illustrates what 
a staff conference can do if called in time. 

Mary Ellen had been on parole about two months when it 
became increasingly obvious all was not going well. She was 
serving a five-year sentence for lewd and lascivious cohabita- 
tion, finally charged after about two years of erratic, disor- 
derly living. During this time Mary Ellen had been drunk 
many times. She had left her five children alone, for which 
she had been put on probation for neglect, and, while her 
husband was overseas in the Army, she had gone off for a six- 
week trip to Chicago with a married Italian from the next 
town. Mary Ellen was picked up on complaint of the man's 
wife. Although she was on probation, the court could not 
surrender Mary Ellen for neglect because she had left the 
children with her sister before leaving for Illinois. She had 
also given her sister the Army allotment checks to cover their 
support. When Mary Ellen was picked up, her husband had 
been overseas for two years. But a medical examination re- 
vealed that she was pregnant. The court recognized that the 
situation had passed the critical stage and that the children 

A Good Job Well Done 45 

could not be exposed to continued disturbances and moral 
neglect. Mary Ellen was found guilty of lewd and lascivious 

While she was in prison, her husband returned from Europe. 
He came to see the Parole Board the day he was discharged 
from the Service: he wanted his wife and he wanted his kids. 
He wanted them that day. He was well braced and on top of 
the world for the interview, but we overlooked that under 
the circumstances. 

We explained to him that under the law we had to see his 
wife in person before we could release her, and we suggested 
that he see her first and that they work out a plan together as 
to where they would live. We were anxious to co-operate and 
offered to send an agent to make a special pre-parole home 
visit. If all was well we agreed to ask the superintendent for 
a report on Mary Ellen's health and adjustment and for a 
recommendation on her case. We would be able to release his 
wife right after our next visit to the Reformatory. A man 
returning from war certainly deserves any special considera- 
tion he can get in re-establishing his home, and we always try 
to help him, usually with gratifying results. Alas, it was not 
so in this case! 

When the husband arrived at the Reformatory to see Mary 
Ellen for the first time, their true natures were all too soon in 
control of the situation. After an enthusiastically warm greet- 
ing, there was a riproaring brawl that convinced the institution 
officer that in spite of Mary Ellen's claim to have been happily 
married before her husband went overseas, hers must have 
been a rather rugged, primitive sort of happiness. The officer 
was sure of this from the ancient history they flung at each 
other at their interview. Climaxing the meeting, he told her 
he had changed his mind. He would have taken her back and 
his kids and the new baby too that wasn't so bad, he'd "had 
a little fun in Paris" himself but when he was shown the 
new baby and discovered, to use his own words, it was a 


"Guinea bastard," he would have "nothing doing with any of 
them!" Off he went and there was no further word of him. 

Weeks and months passed. There was no reason now to 
give Mary Ellen a special release. There was no place for her 
to go. She had the new baby with her, and the other children 
were being well cared for in a special home. When we saw 
her at her regular hearing, we voted to release her to live with 
a woman friend in Dorchester. The friend would care for the 
baby during the day while Mary Ellen worked. All went well 
for about two months when suddenly Mary Ellen and her 
husband located each other and all hell broke loose. The 
landlord phoned. The woman Mary Ellen lived with phoned 
six times, pleading that she could stand it no longer. Mary 
Ellen's sister from out of town called to say she was sure a 
murder would be committed. The police called and wanted 
to know the story. In their book, the husband wasn't a bad 
egg at all. "He could and always did earn a good living 
driving heavy construction equipment. He had worked for 
one employer for eleven years. Oh, sure he drank, but he 
wasn't a bad guy!" Next the probation officer called to give 
us the same general story that the police had told. 

We held a hasty conference in the Board Room at the State 
House and decided that the only possible hopeful conclusion 
to this case was to arbitrate it in some way. None of us had 
the slightest idea how, but our only objective was to reunite 
this family. Strange as it may seem, there were many con- 
structive elements to work with. 

Our first step was to ask the police if they would co-operate 
by picking up the husband from his spot under Mary Ellen's 
window where he was berating her. The police were happy 
to do so because they were pretty sure he would start beating 
the door down if they didn't quiet him. They even suggested 
they would get in touch with his employer, to see if he could 
go to the police station in the morning to fetch him for work; 
they even felt sure his boss would be glad to drive him to meet 

A Good Job Well Done 47 

us at the State House. Meanwhile, we got in touch with Mary 
Ellen's out-of-town sister, a substantial, sound, understanding 
woman, and asked her to come before the Board with the 
parolee the next morning. Neither husband nor wife knew 
we had sent for the other, and we managed to keep them apart 
when they arrived. 

The full Board spent the entire day on the case. First we 
interviewed Mary Ellen alone, and then her husband. Since 
the employer, the supervisor, the field agent, and the probation 
officer all knew the temperament of the pair, they were help- 
ful advisers. It was plain that our rambunctious pair both 
wanted the right things, but getting behind the bluster and 
showing off they put on for us and for each other was a real 
problem. Suddenly, in the midst of the turmoil, one of them 
revealed that they had $1684 which was being held for them 
by the Home for Destitute Catholic Children, where the chil- 
dren had been placed. The money was from allotment checks 
saved while the husband was overseas, as the home did not 
take board for its children, and it was waiting for the parents 
whenever they decided to reunite their family. Under the 
experienced guiding hand of the Parole Board Chairman, they 
worked out their problems one by one. By four o'clock 
everyone left our office happy: the sister to find a big house 
in the country, the agent to help them get furniture to move 
in right away, and to gather all the children even little 
Number Six. 

About fifteen minutes after they had all gone, the big burly 
employer came back to the office of the Women's Division. 
He said rather sheepishly he thought we ought to know what 
he saw after he left the building. He had started to cross the 
street to get his parked car and had purposely dallied behind 
to let husband and wife go their own way. He thought we'd 
like to know that he'd then seen Mary Ellen and her husband 
holding hands as they turned into the little church on the 
corner. We sincerely thanked him for his thoughtful report 


of this sign of a cheerful ending to a difficult case and a hope- 
ful beginning of a new life. 

In our scrapbook at the office, we have a picture of the nine 
children that Mary Ellen now has. She brought them in to us 
one day this spring when she was in town on one of her rare 
trips; and she keeps us posted on every major event in the 
family, even though she finished parole three years ago. 

While the agents are in the field supervising parolees, de- 
veloping new plans in anticipation of new releases, and saying 
farewell to former inmates who have completed their time 
on the outside, the Board is at the office preparing the cases 
of the inmates to be seen the next month, as well as keeping 
a constant eye on the progress of all of the parolees already 
in the community. The women members of the Board go to 
the Reformatory for Women every month and interview each 
inmate at a pre-parole interview, which takes place after the 
prisoner has served six months, regardless of the length of her 
sentence or when she becomes eligible for parole. 

We have found that the pre-parole interview is of great 
benefit in easing the nervous tension that marked release hear- 
ings in the early years of parole, when inmates had built up 
the fallacy that members of the Board were ogres. Parolees 
who are returned for violations naturally try to make a good 
case for themselves and put the Board in as bad a light as 
possible. Their influence fosters that old fallacy, but the 
pre-parole interview gives the inmates a chance to see for 
themselves and make up their own minds. Since the estab- 
lishment of the pre-parole interview, we have noticed an 
enormous change for the better in our relationship with the 
families of the inmates, and it has proved to be a big help in 
making parole plans and programs in advance. 

We have many cases in the metropolitan area where pa- 
rolees find it a source of encouragement to drop into the 
Board's office to talk over problems. A day never passes with- 

A Good Job Well Done 49 

out a few unexpected visitors. There is Anna, who is thinking 
of moving out of the crowded suburb where she owns her 
own house. She would like to buy a motel in the country and 
believes her husband could run it with her. What is most 
important, her little son would then have fields and woods to 
play in. Anna is a woman of capabilities. She certainly could 
swing such an undertaking, so we suggest that she get advice 
from reliable financial sources and look at all angles before 
jumping into such a radical change. Anna's delinquency was 
serious. But it grew out of alcoholism and lasted for only a 
short time. We are convinced this new interest, away from 
taverns, is worth exploring. 

The Board saw Anna as often as she wished to discuss her 
plans and advised her where to go for further information. 
After about four months of planning, Anna came in one day 
and said the project had been postponed until early spring. 
She had enrolled for the winter in a special course in motel 
management, which seemed to all of us like a fine solution. 

Another function of the Board is to interview all excep- 
tional cases that in the opinion of the agents arc not adjusting 
to parole. At times one interview with the parolee and agent 
will iron out the difficulty, while at other times many inter- 
views may be necessary. Perhaps we have received only half 
the story, so we ask the parolee to come back and bring her 
husband. Sometimes a mother-in-law will cause the trouble. 
We have even had both mother and mother-in-law trouble, 
and many times after a long day of interviewing relatives the 
Board members conclude that the poor person sent to prison 
was more sinned against than sinning. 

There are other times when a girl will have a relative who 
will rise to the challenge of parole and will be a powerful 
factor in helping a girl on the road to success. When there 
are other favorable elements in her record and when our 
actual interview with her follows the same hopeful pattern, 
we are likely to get the feeling that the case is off to a good 


start and that this particular girl will never be back inside 

Our first contact with Hazel gave us this impression, and as 
time went on we knew all was going to be well. Cases like 
hers are a sheer joy. No one who has not experienced the tug 
and struggle we all put in on a case we feel is slipping can 
imagine the lift we get out of one that is sailing along smoothly. 
It is one of life's highest satisfactions to see a girl headed for 
a future in which she can work out her own problems rather 
than trying to escape from them. 

Hazel was twenty-one years old and of average intelli- 
gence. Her rural New Hampshire parents separated when 
she was a year old and left her and her brother and sister 
to be brought up by foster parents in Massachusetts. 
Hazel was never interested in school, and after her second 
year in high school left to go to work. She didn't seem 
to be interested in work either. At times she was a soda 
jerker, at others a waitress, but she left every job to "take a 
vacation." These vacations became more frequent as the years 
wore on, until she finally disappeared from home completely 
and was not heard from for six months. That trip ended when 
she was arrested after a lady complained to the police that her 
husband, Mark, and Hazel were living together. Hazel was 
seven months pregnant and claimed to be entirely unaware 
that Mark was already married. They were both found guilty 
of lewd and lascivious cohabitation, but since they were first 
offenders their cases were filed, and they were put on proba- 
tion. Hazel's foster parents accepted her back and took in her 
child, too, when it was born. As part of the probation plan, 
Hazel brought paternity adjudication proceedings against 
Mark, who was found guilty and ordered to support the child. 
Hazel, essentially a dependent person, did well on probation 
under the supervision of her probation officer. She found a 
position in a shoe factory and worked steadily until her two- 
year sentence and her supervision were completed. 

A Good Job Well Done 51 

The very next week she disappeared again. Her foster 
mother discovered that Mark had found her while she was at 
work and that at noon the next day she had gone off with him 
in a car. A state-wide police search brought no clue to their 
whereabouts, and when there was still no word from them a 
month later, the foster mother swore out a complaint against 
Hazel for abandoning her baby. 

After a while rumors began trickling in to the relatives that 
Hazel and Mark had been seen together in New Hampshire, 
and later that they were living in Vermont. From these re- 
ports the police were able to pick up a clear-cut trail that 
showed they were moving from town to town and small city 
to larger city, working a few days in a poor apartment house 
or some second-rate hotel, where they would get food and 
lodgings in exchange for odd jobs before moving on again. 
Each time they left behind them a few forged checks made 
out for very small sums of money. Mark did the forging, but 
Hazel passed the checks on his instructions. Their trail led 
to northern New York state, where they spent the winter 
victimizing small merchants. Neither one made any attempt 
to find steady employment, for they realized by then that their 
Social Security registration would reveal their identity and 
lead to arrest. 

Early in the spring they moved back into Massachusetts. 
With time they had grown bolder and when they passed two 
substantial checks they were caught and convicted. Hazel 
received two five-year sentences to be served concurrently; 
while Mark, who proved to be the organizer and brains of 
the plan, was given two eight-to-ten-year sentences. 

On a sentence like Hazel's, we normally consider the inmate 
for parole after she has served twenty months. At that time, 
the institution's favorable recommendation revealed that in- 
side, free from Mark's influence, Hazel had done very well 
and had soon begun to show her good qualities. She sincerely 
repented the treatment she had given her child, an extremely 


rare attitude for offenders to take, since most of them com- 
pletely disregard the plight of their families or their victims. 
Hazel spent all her spare time knitting sweaters and making 
clothes for her daughter, who was almost two years old, and 
showed great pleasure when her foster parents and other 
relatives visited her. An aunt and uncle who knew the foster 
parents well indicated that Hazel might not be entirely to 
blame for wishing to run away. They offered to take her into 
their home, to find work for her nearby, and to locate a 
boarding home for the baby. At her parole-release hearing 
Hazel convinced the Board that that plan was sound and that 
she was a good risk for release, especially as Mark was to be 
in prison many months before he would even be eligible for 

Checking Hazel's parole plan, the agent visited the aunt and 
found that she lived in a comfortable home in a good neigh- 
borhood, where Hazel would be welcomed with affection and 
understanding. A hospital nearby offered her an attendant's 
job from which she could earn enough money to pay her aunt 
a reasonable amount for her own and her baby's board. The 
agent explained all the parole procedures to the aunt, who 
didn't want the neighbors to know about Hazel's record. To 
clear up that worry, the agent assured her that she herself 
would always arrive in a plain car with regulation number 
plates and would wear quiet business clothing, not a police 
officer's uniform as the aunt had visualized. No one in the 
area need know that Hazel was on parole unless either Hazel 
or the family told about it themselves, and this relieved the 
aunt's mind tremendously. 

It is left to the Board's discretion, exercised with common 
sense and tact, to determine how much of a parolee's record 
should be revealed. The law only requires that the chief of 
police be notified when a felon is to be released to live in his 
territory. If a prisoner has been guilty of crimes of great 
violence against other people, it would, of course, be wise to 
warn both the employer and the boarding home too. Again, 

A Good Job Well Done 53 

it would be rather poor judgment to allow a person who had 
been involved in money troubles to work where she would 
handle funds without warning her employer. In this connec- 
tion, we are always amazed at how often an employer will hire 
someone for a position of financial responsibility without even 
checking to see if she has a criminal record. 

Since Hazel's aunt knew all about her history, and since 
Hazel was to have nothing to do with money at the hospital, 
there was no need of exposing her record at all when she was 
released. Her parole story was a huge success. The only 
special point the agent had made to her was that she should 
make occasional visits to her foster parents to keep on friendly 
terms with them, which Hazel was glad to do. At the hospital, 
after a six-month trial as a nursing attendant, she was accepted 
into training as a student nurse. Her aunt and uncle were so 
gratified by her progress that when she left them to live in the 
hospital during the training period they kept her little daugh- 
ter at home with them and agreed to support her while Hazel 
was in training and receiving no wages. A serious situation 
might have developed when Hazel had to leave her training 
to have a major operation but, instead of succumbing to the 
weakness that had led her to take the easy way before, she 
returned to her nursing training just as soon as she was 
physically able. Two months before her graduation, she 
married the engineer from the hospital with the Parole Board's 
permission (and blessing). The day the agent gave Hazel her 
Honorable Discharge Certificate, she, her husband, and her 
daughter were living in an attractively furnished apartment 
on the street next to her aunt's house. 

There were undoubtedly many reasons for Hazel's remark- 
able success. Certainly one of the most important was that she 
learned that the right way was both satisfying and worthwhile. 
Another, I have always felt, was that the love her aunt and 
uncle gave her and the confidence they placed in her gave her 
the self-respect to work hard and achieve her personal victory. 

Suggested Development of the Release Program 

WHEN WE COMPARE the over-all treatment of women offend- 
ers in Massachusetts with the rest of the nation, we find that 
the former pioneer spirit of reform here has gradually given 
way to stereotyped thinking and inflexibility. Some people 
have wanted to begin all over again with a wholesale revamp- 
ing of our laws. They are only too happy to change merely 
for the sake of change; and the publicity given the California 
plan in the 1954 riots at the Charlestown Prison has made 
them more vocal than ever. 

From my own experience, I can only say that such action 
would be quite injudicious. We need some revisions and 
moderations to gear our penal system to present-day problems. 
That is true of any business too, but no executive in his right 
mind would ever think of scrapping his entire business and 
starting in again from scratch. He would regear or retool his 
machines to produce better products. Yet, for Massachusetts 
to adopt the California plan would be tantamount to throw- 
ing the business away. 

Under that system, which took effect ten years ago, there 
is an Adult Authority which determines how much of her 
sentence a prisoner should serve. The courts still decide the 
guilt of an offender, but the Authority sets her sentence and 
her final discharge. People forget that depriving the courts 
of their customary sentencing powers is a drastic and possibly 
dangerous step, to be undertaken only after the most careful 

Conditions in Massachusetts are different from those in 
California, and the remedies that fit our problems are not 

Suggested Development of the Release Program 55 

necessarily the ones that fit theirs. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, 
New York, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin are experimenting 
with new procedures too, and each of them is approaching 
problems of correction from a slightly different point of view. 
It is too early to decide which is best, and, when we do, we 
must tailor the solution to Massachusetts conditions. For now, 
within our existing legislation, some radical revamping of the 
Massachusetts correctional system is possible and very much 
in order. A modernized classification system could take ad- 
vantage of the immense reservoir of knowledge regularly 
accumulated by the field workers who actually steer and guide 
the inmate from the prison door to respected citizenship. We 
are failing to cull and assimilate their experiences for their 
successors. We could do it, at least in part, by setting up a 
program for institution personnel and field workers to rotate 
their duties. The entire correctional program would benefit 
greatly, because in no field of social work is the necessity of 
sensing the public "pulse" more important than in dealing 
with these human failures. 

The staff members in women's institutions, by the very 
nature of their work, lead restricted lives entirely removed 
from the stresses and strains of the community. Thus, they 
stagnate and lose the ability to appraise properly or under- 
stand the problems and forces that sent their charges behind 
prison bars. 

Students newly from college and bursting with book knowl- 
edge and theories are needed in all phases of correctional work. 
Yet they should spend several years of internship to gain 
practical experience at a community level. They should 
actually wallow in the common life and know what the slums 
sound and smell like on a zero winter's night or on a July 
afternoon when tempers mount to the breaking point. That's 
what every young doctor has to do before he can go into 
private practice. In the same way, social workers should deal 
with normal individuals in the community before being ac- 


cepted by institutions which deal only with the abnormal and 
emotionally distraught; and parole officers should be required 
to have institutional experience with prisoners before working 
with them outside. 

Beardsley Ruml, that amazing American who almost suc- 
ceeded in making tax-paying painless when he thought up the 
withholding tax, feels that academic social science has gone 
badly off course and won't be put back easily.* He feels it 
is exceptionally difficult to study because it cannot be brought 
into the laboratory for observation and because none of the 
important forces that social science deals with can be con- 
trolled or isolated, or experimented with. They must be 
observed when and as they operate in everyday America, and 
academic programs have no facilities for that kind of field work. 

Ruml also believes the current malaise is due to the pre- 
ponderance of introverts on the faculties of our colleges and 
universities who think and teach in terms of theories that sound 
fine in classrooms but often have little or nothing to do with 
practical applications to society. The best social scientists 
alive are not in our universities, but in business and govern- 
ment actually working on existing problems. He believes it 
is a deplorable economic waste that their private wisdom can- 
not be made available as a public possession. 

I agree with him entirely. In any Parole Board, for in- 
stance, there is a vast reservoir of knowledge and information, 
and if some of our great universities would set up permanent 
seminars where penological staffs could be kept abreast of 
constantly changing conditions, they, in turn, would gladly 
impart their specialized knowledge to the social science stu- 
dents who will succeed them in doing the actual work. This 
forum or seminar could attract the best minds in allied fields 
for I am sure probation officers, judges, police chiefs, business- 
men (who are an essential reservoir of employment for re- 

* C. H. Grattan, "Beardsley Ruml and His Ideas," Harpers Magazine 
(May, 1952). 

Suggested Development of the Release Program 57 

leased prisoners), social workers, doctors, scientists, teachers, 
clergymen, newspapermen, legislators, and lawyers would 
gladly participate in a healthy, stimulating program that 
pooled their experiences to promote better understanding of 
our criminal problems. 

Here is one concrete step which would, I think, improve 
conditions in all aspects of correction programs more than 
any sweeping change in the law. After all, though good 
laws help, even the best will be effective only if they are ad- 
ministered well by officers backed up by the knowledge and 
ability and co-operation of the whole community. 

I devote a good deal of space in this book, I'm afraid, to writ- 
ing about the changes that ought to be made in various laws 
and procedures. Now, for a change, I am happy to report 
progress that has been instituted and has been a great help in 
our work. 

A few years ago, Congress passed a law allowing the sev- 
eral states to "enter into a compact or agreement for the co- 
operative and mutual effort in the prevention of crime, and 
other assistance." With the adoption of Section 151 A of 
Chapter 127 of the General Laws Massachusetts entered 
that compact. Recently, with the signing of Texas, all forty- 
eight states became members, which gave the Interstate 
Compact the force of law throughout the entire country. 

I can best explain what the compact accomplishes and how 
it works by giving an imaginary example. Suppose Jane 
Smith was born and brought up in Illinois. She ran away and 
came to Boston, where she committed a crime for which she 
was imprisoned. If the Board decides that she is ready for 
parole, she will obviously have a much better chance of fit- 
ting into the community in Illinois, where her family and 
friends are, than in Massachusetts, where she is a virtual 
stranger. The compact makes this possible and turns the re- 
sponsibility of supervising her parole over to her home state. 


Before the compact went into effect, the state that sentenced 
a criminal had to take care of her parole, even though she may 
have come into the state only to commit the crime and have 
no other connection with it. 

The compact serves a twofold purpose. First, it allows a 
state to reject from its confines an undesirable criminal who 
may have been operating within its borders, which is the 
plight of all states such as New York, Florida, Illinois, Penn- 
sylvania, Massachusetts, and California which have large 
cities. Big-time criminals seek out the densely populated 
cities where all the props and assists they need in their busi- 
ness are readily available and where they can get lost in the 

The other benefit is that the law enforcement agencies of 
the accepting state know in advance when a criminal is about 
to be released and instead of getting a bitter surprise, know 
where she is to be living and what work plans have been 
arranged for her. 

Continuing with the example of Jane Smith, when we 
in Massachusetts vote her parole, we notify the home state, 
in this example Illinois, and send the parole authorities there 
copies of all our records on the case. The Illinois parole board 
investigates the home situation, opportunities for work, and 
all the other factors bearing on the possibility of her serving 
a successful parole there. Under the compact, Illinois must 
accept her unless there is a valid reason for rejecting our appli- 
cation. The Illinois parole board makes the decision, and if it 
accepts, Jane's reservations are made by a Massachusetts 
agent, who also takes her to the train or airport and starts her 
on her way. On arrival she reports at once to the Illinois 
parole office and it takes over the administration of her parole, 
giving us monthly reports on her progress. 

Jane becomes the responsibility of the Illinois parole depart- 
ment. She would remain under its supervision to the expira- 
tion of her sentence. Should Jane become a serious parole 

Suggested Development of the Release Program 59 

violator, the facts would be communicated back to Massa- 
chusetts. It would then be our responsibility to issue a war- 
rant and to send transportation officers to bring the parolee 
back in custody to the institution from which she was re- 

The procedures under the interstate compact work out 
very well with the states that have modern parole systems. 
There are of course still many states where parole supervision 
is only just beginning to be developed and with these the 
procedures are slow and the supervision only nominal. 

Many times, with all these precautions, we have tragic and 
conspicuous failures, but in the great majority of cases the 
compact procedures are working out very well. We rarely 
refuse another state's request that we take over the parole of 
a Massachusetts girl, but we did have to deny one recently. 

The Compact Administrator, who in this state has always 
been the Chairman of our Board, although the Governor can 
appoint anyone, received a letter from one of the western 
states where the population is so small that there are few 
female offenders. The letter announced that State X had just 
granted a parole to Lena and asked if Massachusetts would 
accept her. A sketchy summary of the case was enclosed. 
Lena was apparently on a cross-country tour when she 
stopped in a small city and picked up and lived with a sailor 
whom she met in a tavern. All went well for a couple of days 
while their money for liquor lasted, but then they were 
separated somehow. Probably Lena just overslept. When she 
finally woke up and went out looking for her man, she found 
him in an amusement park dancing with another woman. 
Lena did her best to win him back. She made quite a scene, 
but her sailor declined to be distracted from his dancing part- 

Lena finally withdrew to a dime store, where she bought 
a pointed paring knife. Back she went to the dance hall, and 


as the music played on, she waited until her man and his 
partner swung by her. When they still ignored her, she 
lunged onto the dance floor and with the strength of a woman 
scorned drove the blade of her new knife into the sailor's 
back, between two ribs in such a way that he slumped to the 
floor dead before she even let go of the knife. 

She was arrested on the spot and indicted for first-degree 
murder. The prosecution had little trouble in preparing its 
case, for at least a dozen patrons recognized her and 
the clerk in the dime store was able to identify her and clearly 
remembered selling her the knife not a half hour before. Lena 
was found guilty of first-degree murder and given a ninety- 
three-year sentence. She was paroled almost at once, for just 
eleven months later we received the request for Massachusetts 
to make the investigation and assume supervision for the next 
ninety-two years and one month that Lena's sentence had to 
run. The summary was so brief that we could not discover 
the reasons for this most unusually early release. There cer- 
tainly must either have been some amazing factors in the 
case or our sister state has astonishing confidence in the ability 
of the Massachusetts parole department to work miracles. 

Be that as it may, after the Compact Administrator and the 
rest of the Board had recovered from our surprise we began 
to investigate Lena's case. 

State X had referred the case to us for a valid reason. Lena, 
according to their verified court record, had been born and 
reared in one of Massachusetts' large industrial cities. She was 
now only twenty-two years old and had not been in touch 
with any of her family in the last seven years. She had never 
worked for more than two or three weeks at a time and had 
never settled anywhere long enough to establish residence in 
any other state. 

When our agent finished reading this discouraging report 
and began to appreciate what supervising Lena's parole would 
add to her case load for the rest of her life, she made her own 
routine investigation. The record gave the addresses of Lena's 

Suggested Development of the Release Program 61 

two sisters and of her mother in her native city. But the agent 
discovered that the family was unknown at one address. 
Neighbors who had lived in the vicinity for ten years failed 
even to recall a family of that name ever having lived there. 
At the address given as the home of a married sister, our agent 
found a city block of semi-demolished wooden buildings: 
windows broken, clapboards torn off for firewood and the 
roof half caved in by the weight of the snows of several 
winters. A check of the city directory failed to disclose 
any of the names listed in the report as living in the city. 

The Board sent the inquiring state a copy of our agent's 
home investigation and declined to accept supervision on the 
grounds that there was no constructive plan available. 

I frequently think of that girl and wonder how she is get- 
ting along; but I wonder more about her family. Who were 
they? Why did they separate? What was her story during 
the seven years she wandered around the country seeking the 
approval and affection she never found? 

Besides showing the disastrous effects of a split home or 
perhaps a home where there never was a father and the 
lengths that a girl starved for affection will go to find the love 
she needs, this case illustrates some of the steps in the process 
of administering the Interstate Compact. I do not wish to 
imply that all the cases which come under the compact are 
this serious. I don't know what I should have done had I been 
sitting in judgment on this case, for I never saw sufficient data 
on the case on which to base a valid judgment. As a matter 
of theory, though, I will say that if we are ever going to re- 
turn such an unfortunate and still young woman to society 
and give her a chance to have a useful life, it is far better to 
do it at a reasonably early date, before she is seriously con- 
taminated by hardened recidivists, and while she will have a 
long period of trial and supervision to help her adjust. How- 
ever, I do feel that ninety-two years and one month is a little 
too long a job to give any parole board or agent. 


There s Nothing like a Good Employer 

To A GIRL just out of prison, a job can be either a foundation 
around which to build her new life or a misery that can undo 
all the good her agent or helpful family interest may be doing 
her. Thus suitable jobs and good employers for the girls 
are of constant interest to the Board. 

About thirty years ago a new set of immigration restric- 
tions were established by Congress which sharply reduced the 
number of girls available for domestic work. That opened 
new employment possibilities for released female prisoners, 
and we now have many more offers of jobs each month than 
we have girls to fill them, but the matching up of parolee and 
employer is an art in itself. Of course we do receive some 
requests from persons who are quite unsuitable as prospective 
employers, but these are few, and the agent is usually able to 
estimate the sincerity of the employer when she makes her 
routine call on her before the girl is released. We know that 
if an employer ever tries to impose too much work on a girl, 
she lets her plight be known in short order. Even the feeble- 
minded girls are extremely vocal about "their rights." Most 
of the arbitration that the agent is involved in concerns girls 
who refuse to do a fair day's work for their employers in re- 
turn for their wages. 

An employer assumes less risk when she takes a parolee into 
her house than she does when she hires a girl from an adver- 
tisement in the newspaper or from an employment agency 
which really knows nothing about the background of a girl. 
A woman employing a parolee has the privilege of inquiring 
into the record of a girl's past, and she has the constant help 

There's Nothing like a Good Employer 63 

of the agent in ironing out problems and helping the girl fit 
into her new environment. Then too, the released prisoner, 
trying to start a new life, is usually so grateful to be accepted 
in the home that she will be a dependable and loyal worker. 
The more fully the public realizes that these girls need a fair 
opportunity to earn an honest living, the more successful our 
parole program will be. 

Girls who successfully complete their paroles working in a 
home usually stay on that job until they leave to get married 
or leave for some other equally good reason. This record is 
the best advertisement our girls could have, and employers 
who have once had one of our girls usually beseech us to send 
them another and another. Many of them deserve a great 
deal of credit and the sincere thanks of the community for 
the humane and charitable interest they show in these home- 
less girls and the way some of them even virtually make them 
members of their own families. 

We have one employer, Mrs. Dense, who operates a rest 
home in an isolated rural area and always has two or three of 
our girls as employees. In her case, and in a few others, we 
make an exception to our rule of not allowing one parolee to 
associate with another. There are some individuals who can- 
not work alone, and others who are better in pairs, supple- 
menting each other and giving each other courage, when 
they might fail on their own, removed from that companion- 

Mrs. Bense's rest home accommodates about thirty patients, 
and she and Mr. Bense and their daughter live and eat with 
the staff members in a large old colonial farmhouse. In the 
past decade Mrs. Bense has employed between eighteen and 
twenty different parolees, and since she has a peculiar knack 
of being able to work best with dull people, we naturally 
turned to her when we wanted to place Pauline, a lonely, 
frightened eighteen-year-old who needed a protected en- 


Pauline had charged her father with incest about four years 
before we first saw her. At that time the Chief Justice him- 
self happened to be sitting when her case came to trial before 
the Superior Court. When she testified she completely 
changed her story so the case was dismissed. Naturally, the 
family situation continued to concern the neighborhood 
where she lived, and, as Pauline was not doing well at school, 
the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children began 
trying to work with her. For a while she seemed to improve 
in school, but it was obvious her limited mentality was going 
to prevent her from keeping up with her class or with others 
in her age group. Interested relatives and school authorities 
decided to enroll her in a trade school and to give her special 
group work at a social agency, but Pauline's progress was 
spotty, to say the least. She left the living quarters that had 
been arranged for her, usually to return home, and since she 
was not under any court control and was beyond legal school 
age, she really was at liberty to do about as she saw fit. Some- 
times she would work a few days, and others she would visit 
relatives and do a little baby-sitting in exchange for her meals. 

After about six months of this aimless drifting Pauline once 
more arrived at the police station and again charged her father 
with incest, this time with most lurid details. Her father was 
held over once more for the Superior Court, and by coin- 
cidence the Chief Justice happened to be sitting again. Paul- 
ine took the stand and for the second time changed her story, 
just as she had two years before. The Judge called for a re- 
cess, and with a matron and the court physician present held a 
conference with Pauline in his chambers. He talked to her 
long and earnestly about the gravity of the charge she was 
making against her father, warning her of the severe penalty 
of the wrong she was doing him if the accusations were un- 

Back in court Pauline once more accused her father and 
then, for the third time, suddenly withdrew the accusations. 

There's Nothing like a Good Employer 65 

Since the court doctor had previously declared that she was 
sane, the judge found her guilty of perjury and sentenced her 
to five years in the Reformatory for Women. 

Pauline had served about eighteen months when we voted 
to release her and sent her agent to make the necessary ar- 
rangements to take her to Mrs. Bense's rest home, where she 
was to live as a family member and be included in enough so- 
cial activities so that she would not need outside contacts for 
the first part of her parole. From the way Pauline seemed to 
need this shelter and sought protection like an abused puppy, 
I have always believed that she really feared and hated her 
father and that her original story was true. It was probably 
fear of him when he actually confronted her in court which 
made her change that story, even though it meant she had to 
go to prison. 

Pauline would never be a whirlwind success, but Mrs. 
Bense knew that and only assigned her to routine work under 
the immediate direction of a brighter, more experienced girl. 
She settled in very comfortably in her new home and ap- 
peared to be happy enough so that she never made the slight- 
est attempt to leave the locality nor complain to her agent 
about her restrictions. Then suddenly came the news of her 
father's death in an automobile accident. This left poor Paul- 
ine entirely alone in the world and plunged her into a severe 
emotional upset. Another parolee, Anna, who was a forty- 
year-old woman with grown children of her own, and Mrs. 
Bense were most helpful in their understanding of Pauline's 
grief, and before long she was beginning to look better and 
do better work. It was quite obvious that her mind was at 
last at ease, so when Anna helped her to make some dresses 
for herself it improved her morale tremendously. 

At Thanksgiving time Mrs. Bense asked permission to take 
Pauline to Vermont with her family to spend the holiday with 
Mr. Bense's relatives. Of course we were delighted to have 
Pauline get this vacation even if it was only for a few days. 


Shortly after Christmas the agent came into the office with 
the news that there had been an enormous change in Pauline. 
She now had a new hair-do and a permanent wave, no more 
of that drab stringy hair and sad appearance. But even more 
important, Pauline had a boy friend. She had met a young 
man, a cripple who lived with Mr. Sense's brother and his 
wife in Vermont, and they had been corresponding ever since 
Thanksgiving. Early in the spring Pauline told her agent that 
she and Ralph were planning to be married in the fall if the 
Board would give them permission. It wasn't hard to arrange 
that on his next trip down from Vermont Ralph would spend 
the night at the rest home, and Mrs. Bense would drive him 
and Pauline to the office to discuss their plans with the 

That visit was a very happy occasion for us all, because the 
Board members had not seen Pauline for the many months 
since her original release hearing, and indeed she now was a 
changed girl from the timid child we paroled that day. She 
had gained some weight, was attractively dressed, and ap- 
peared calm, poised, and happy. 

Ralph was a nice young man, rather seriously crippled by 
an attack of polio he had suffered as a child, but not too 
crippled to have been able to work as a porter at the state 
capitol in Vermont. We were impressed by his earnestness 
about his plans to marry Pauline, when the Chairman asked 
him if he knew her court history and asked if there were any 
questions he would like to ask either about Pauline or about 
parole procedures. He replied that she had hold him and that 
he thought he understood all about them. 

He assured us that while working at the capitol he had 
gone to the local parole office to learn all the details of pro- 
cedure under the Interstate Compact. He had progressed so 
far with his marriage plans that he had located a used trailer 
which they were going to be able to rent for their future 
home. He even produced a bank book with funds sufficient 

There's Nothing like a Good Employer 61 

to buy the food and necessities for them to set up housekeep- 
ing. So the green light from us was all they needed. The 
Board gladly gave its permission for them to marry and wrote 
the formal request to the Vermont authorities to investigate 
Ralph's home situation. If they approved, we asked them to 
assume co-operative supervision of Pauline after their wed- 
ding had taken place here. In due time we received their 
reply accepting Pauline, and the agent notified her that she 
and Ralph could proceed with their plans just as any other 
young couple would. 

Labor Day week end Mrs. Bense gave Pauline a small wed- 
ding at the rest home, with all the patients attending as guests. 
Pauline was a white bride in a dress that Mrs. Bense and 
Anna had made for her as a present. Mr. Sense's brother and 
sister-in-law drove the groom down for the wedding, and 
after the ceremony Mrs. Bense and Anna served one of those 
meals that only New England housewives know how to pre- 
pare. With many tears and heartfelt thanks, Pauline left 
her employer, and she and her husband were driven to their 
new home in their trailer that night. 

Our news of Pauline was fragmentary now, for under the 
Compact we only receive a monthly summary of the parolee's 
progress, and Pauline did not write us a personal letter very 
often. In one of them, she told us she had fallen on the ice 
during the winter and had injured her head so seriously that 
although she had come home from the hospital she still was 
not well. In another she told us she was pregnant and that 
she and Ralph were very, very happy over the prospects of 
having a child. During the next months we heard nothing 
directly from Pauline, but her agent picked up bits of news 
every time she went to see Anna and the new girl who had 
taken Pauline's place at the Bense rest home. She learned that 
Pauline had been hospitalized several times during her preg- 
nancy because of complications that had arisen from her head 
injury. Then one Monday morning a succinct telegram told 



This would seem to be the logical place to end the story of 
our contact with Pauline, but not so. Ralph was, of course, 
quite dazed, and in his grief he allowed a friend to place his 
baby back in Massachusetts to board. Some months later a 
hotly contested court action developed, when the foster 
parents wished to adopt the baby and Ralph refused to relin- 
quish him. Ralph had always supported the child but had not 
been able to visit him often because of the distance and the 
difficulties of travel. The foster parents tried to establish that 
because Ralph had no home or relatives and was crippled 
he was an unsuitable person to have the legal custody of the 
little boy, while they, as husband and wife living in very com- 
fortable circumstances, could give the child many advantages 
he could not otherwise have. 

Ralph wrote to the parole department and asked if it was 
possible for one of us to appear to explain how dependable 
and reliable he had been with his wife. Pauline's agent was 
qnly too glad to go and with the Board's permission took our 
actual records, which she interpreted for the court where the 
adoption petition was heard. 

The next week the agent received the following letter: 

Dear Miss Gabriel, 

I am writing this letter to let you know that I have not for- 
gotten you and I am sorry that I have not written sooner. 

I want to thank you for all you did for my dear wife and my- 
self and for the part you played in my court battle. I went back 
to court and the petition that Mrs. Kenny put in was denied and 
I got my little son back. We are now living with Mr. and Mrs. 
Bense where I was before I got married. Mrs. Bense is real good 
to little Paul and he is doing fine. 

My only hope is, that someday I can make a home for him and 
see that he gets as good a step-mother as the kind of mother 
Pauline would have been to him. 

There's Nothing like a Good Employer 69 

Miss Gabriel, I could give a girl a good break, no matter what 
she had done, if she was really sorry, and wanted a guy who 
would be good to her. And I hope it will be a girl who has been 
in the same boat my wife was in, because I believe that they make 
the best wives; if they are truly sorry and want a good guy. 

I know I have no regrets in marrying Pauline and I believe I 
gave her a good chance in life and made a good husband for her. 
So Miss Gabriel if you know of a girl that you think would like 
to meet a fellow who will try and be good to her and help her 
in life, you send me her address and I will try and do everything 
in my power to make her a good citizen. 

Thank you again for everything you did. I shall always regard 
you as a very good friend of rny son and myself. 

As ever, 


For the time being we have lost track of Ralph and his son 
Paul, but I feel very sure he will either come into the office 
someday or write us again to let us know how they are getting 
along. We shall be most interested to hear. 

Most readers will certainly agree with me, after reading 
Pauline's tragic story, that one of the most important factors 
in the success of our work is the knowledge, wisdom, and 
understanding of the supervisor and the agent in selecting 
understanding employers for our girls. God give the Com- 
monwealth of Massachusetts more women of the caliber of 
our old friend Mrs. Bense. 

Whenever a girl who has had a good employer reaches the 
end of her sentence, the Board is delighted to reward her with 
a Good Conduct Release, but I always feel, on such an oc- 
casion, that we should give the employer a gilt-edged certifi- 
cate expressing our appreciation and that of the parolee. As 
it is, her only recompense is a job well done. There are all too 
few employers willing to try this type of achievement, but 
those who do accomplish more than an institution ever can. 


"Just Drunk?' 

Drink, puppy, drink 

And let every puppy drink 

Who is old enough to lap and to swallow, 

For he'll grow into a hound 

And we'll pass the bottle around 

And merrily we'll whoop and we'll holloa. 


THERE ARE many people who, if they think at all of alcoholism, 
conjure up a convivial and happy scene with many individuals 
involved, all having a hilarious time. Perhaps there is a casualty 
here or there on the fringe. Then, someone will say, u Oh, 
well, it's too bad, she had a little too much." 

But the true alcoholics, who run afoul of the law, are a sorry 
picture indeed and usually very lonely solitary beings. They 
have been going their futile way slowly and surely from one 
failure to another, each a step lower than the last, until they 
themselves don't know or remember how low they actually 
have gone. 

The few studies which have been made of prison inmates 
show that a clear majority are alcoholics. For example, a 
Massachusetts Legislative Commission which investigated the 
problem of drunkenness in 1945 learned that fifty per cent of 
the felonies committed in the state were related to alcoholism 
and about eighty-five per cent of the commitments to the 
county jails and houses of correction were due to alcoholism 
or crimes related to drinking. 

The pattern of the alcoholic criminal is rather clear. She 

"Just Drunk?" 71 

has been drinking for many years. She may have taken to 
liquor as an escape from reality, to "drown her sorrows," or 
to relax herself and ease her loneliness. Whatever her reason, 
she may have been a "home drinker," and as a result a con- 
firmed alcoholic before her family or friends realized it. Then 
followed several arrests. At first the police locked her up for 
a few hours and then let her go. Eventually she landed in 
court, received probation, failed to meet its requirements, and 
went to jail. But alcoholism is a disease. What treatment did 
she receive for it from the courts or in jail? 

The answer is both short and shocking: none. Time rests 
heavily on a jailed prisoner. Few jails or houses of correction 
have any work for the women to do. A few may work in the 
laundry, do some sewing, or a bit of kitchen work, but for 
most of them boredom is their boon companion. 

After she's been in jail for a while, the alcoholic may be 
released when a County Commissioner signs her parole permit. 
In many instances, he signs it without even talking with the 
inmate, and the supervision given the parolee is almost nil. 
The probation officers of the local court are technically given 
this parole supervisory power, but they are already over- 
burdened with other duties. 

A typical case was Jennie, who was sentenced after thirty- 
four previous court appearances for various offenses, all of 
which had their basis in alcohol. A rundown of the charges 
against her included: idle and disorderly conduct, drunken- 
ness, fornication, disturbing the peace, vagrancy, willful de- 
struction of property, lewd and lascivious speech and behavior. 
She finally was sent away on an adultery charge. 

Jennie was thirty-eight years old, robust, smiling and likable 
when she appeared before us for a pre-parole interview. My 
first reaction when she entered the room was one of amaze- 
ment. From her record I most certainly expected to find a far 
different type of woman. First, of course, I expected to find 
her wasted, tense, nervous, and, as is usual with such cases, 


ready to blame everyone else for her situation. It was not so 
with Jennie! She had none of the typical alcoholic loneliness 
either. She was just an uncomplicated realist who frankly 
admitted she remembered little about her life because she had 
been drunk constantly for the last twenty years. 

Our interview progressed nicely. We had verified all the 
facts regarding a marriage and a son (from the official record) 
before the interview. It was startling actually to confront her 
and try to reconcile our picture with this very likable woman 
who with no emotion or reserve retold the story point by 
point. Yes, she vaguely remembered a husband, but he was 
of no account at all. 

"He went somewhere," she said. "I never did really know 
where, just on a boat." 

When questioned about her boy, she perked up quite 
brightly and said that she heard he was in the Navy. No, he 
had never been legally adopted. She just gave him away, she 
did not remember just when oh, yes, when he was a very 
little boy. Years and years ago. He wouldn't know her any- 
how and for that matter, she wasn't so sure she would 
know him and why should she bother, now? A friend had 
always had him across the river, and she guessed he thought 
he was her child. She had heard that the friend and her hus- 
band were kind to him so why should she bother? 

When the talk turned to her mother and father, Jennie's 
memory was clearer. Liquor had trimmed her father, but 
now, in his old age, he'd gone off it entirely. He lived in a 
small seafaring village on Cape Cod with her mother, for 
whom Jennie expressed devotion. Her mother was young for 
her years and went out to do domestic work in "the big 
houses" of the town during the summer months. 

Jennie had kept in touch with her mother in her own way. 
She paid a visit or sent a letter every two or three years 
"If I was sober," she added with a sheepish grin. 

While Jennie was in the Reformatory, a case worker had 

"Just Drunk?" 73 

been in touch with the mother. The result was an active 
exchange of letters between Jennie and her mother. One of 
the most surprising revelations of Jennie's career was that she 
made no pretense whatever of ever having worked. She 
admitted never attempting to find gainful employment, or 
even having thought it particularly necessary. We explained 
to her, of course, that parole was only a trial in the com- 
munity, and that she would be under sentence for her full two 
years. If she wanted a parole trial, she would have to be 
willing to work at some suitable employment and to live in a 
respectable area. 

Jennie also clearly understood she could not return to her 
old haunts and friends on the waterfront. There must be no 
more stevedores for Jennie if she wished to remain "outside." 
We even went so far as to make Boston and waterfront ports 
out of bounds for her. She was not to come to the city or its 
surrounding suburbs during her entire parole period. Jennie 
understood and was eager to co-operate. 

About six weeks later when the entire Board went to the 
institution for a formal parole hearing, Jennie had worked out 
a detailed plan for the future. Since it seemed quite workable 
to the Board, we voted Jennie her parole, with two added 
special parole rules as safeguards. The first was that Jennie 
did not have to go on a spree, or be found really intoxicated 
to provide cause for revocation. It meant that her agent, upon 
hearing a reliable report that Jennie was drinking, would ask 
the Board to issue a warrant and return her at once to the 
institution for Jennie's own protection. The second stipula- 
tion listed specific cities and areas where she could not go. 

After the formal release vote, Jennie remained in the insti- 
tution about one week. During this time her case was assigned 
to a field agent, who made a home visit to her mother, where, 
Jennie had said, she was welcome and wished to go. The 
agent found a tired, pleasing woman who understood her one 
child only too well. 


"A chip off the old block," said the mother, nodding in the 
direction of the old man who sat in a backless chair in the sun 
by the door. Their gray clapboard house looked as weather- 
beaten as Jennie's father. He sat in his chair paying no atten- 
tion and only moved a little now and then as the sun went 
behind the scrawny locust trees that lined the fence dividing 
his property from the sand road. 

The mother told our agent that she would welcome Jennie 
if her daughter had some way to support herself. This was a 
respectable neighborhood, and the mother had her own em- 
ployers to think about. The agent assured her that work was 
one of the requirements of supervised release, and that if she 
did no work Jennie would be returned to prison. 

Everything was finally arranged. Jennie would be released 
to her mother for a visit of no more than three or four days 
so she would not become a financial burden. The agent would 
then come and drive her to a nursing home where the agent 
had found her a living-in job. 

This plan has worked out very satisfactorily. Jennie is far 
removed from any environment of easy living. She is under 
the constant supervision of her employer six days a week, and 
on the seventh she takes a bus directly to Cape Cod to spend 
the night with her parents. 

So far, all is well. At times, Jennie is restless and complains 
of petty problems: she doesn't like her shoes, her feet hurt, 
the second girl chews gum, the older patients snore (and she 
can't stand snoring). Jennie was an extremely poor parole 
risk. She still is. How one could ever predict her as a complete 
success story I do not know! Any day, if she gets too restless, 
she may stop a northbound bus rather than one headed for 
Cape Cod. That day will be the end of Jennie. One never 
knows. But she may get sufficient satisfaction by caring for 
these helpless old people in the nursing home to want to keep 
on being a lady when she goes to see her mother each week. 
Even if she does, it will always be on a day-to-day basis, since 

"Just Drunk?" 75 

there has never been any long-range planning in Jennie's life, 
and there probably never will be. But the desire is there, and 
so we have hope. 

Chronic alcoholics differ very widely in the pattern of their 
behavior. One girl when drinking heavily may live quietly as 
a secret drinker and barely come to the attention of her next- 
door neighbor, while another girl who may not actually drink 
for as long a period of time or consume half as much liquor 
may become a vicious, dangerous personality after being off 
on a spree for only a few hours. Here is a story about an 
alcoholic woman of the second type. 

Charlotte had an excellent background and a good mind and 
so was a rather unusual offender. Her environment and family 
history gave no clue to the reasons for her long life of 

She was born in a Boston suburb, one of three children, 
went to high school, and had two years of training in a 
business school, where, with an IQ of 125, she made a fine 
record. She started to drink socially while working in an 
insurance office, and soon became an alcoholic. Later, she 
married and had three children, now ranging from twelve to 
twenty-one years of age. The man Charlotte married was far 
below her in intellect and cultural background. He too was 
an alcoholic throughout their life together. He left her seven 
years ago and has never been traced since. 

Charlotte is a fast, smooth talker, and talked herself out of 
one situation after another. Her family had "good connec- 
tions," so she had never been sent away before, except for five 
short jail sentences, ranging from ten to thirty days. Charlotte 
only got these when her physical condition was so bad that she 
couldn't care for herself and probation was out of the question. 

During her first reformatory sentence Charlotte's children 
had been separated and their home split up. An aunt took 
the oldest daughter, who has turned out to be a spl 


young woman. The younger boy and girl were placed with 
private child-care agencies, which in turn placed them in 
foster homes. 

Charlotte continued her life of dissipation drinking, 
working a day or a week, slowly sliding down the scale to 
degradation. On birthdays or holidays she would try to sober 
up and ask permission to visit her children. When one daugh- 
ter grew up she and her mother quarreled and stopped seeing 
or hearing from one another. By this time Charlotte was living 
in complete squalor, usually in a dingy rooming house as a 
"housekeeper" for some vagrant. 

Once there were three men and another woman in Char- 
lotte's room. The night was cold and stormy, and their liquor 
was running out. To replenish their supply, Charlotte taxied 
to a large hotel nearby to look up a likely stranger to "invite" 
to her party, hoping he would have money enough to finance 
a few more drinks for the entire group. She returned with a 
prospect in a little while, but the shabby lodging house aroused 
his suspicions and he tried to leave. The group set upon him 
and a battle followed. Charlotte seized a carving knife and hit 
him on the head. The knife glanced off and embedded itself 
deeply in his neck near the shoulder. Frightened but too drunk 
to think rationally, Charlotte and her friends threw the 
stranger out of the window, below which he was found soon 
afterwards, bleeding profusely. 

At the hospital where he was taken the stranger lingered 
between life and death for seventeen days, but finally re- 
covered. Charlotte and friends were all arrested and found 
guilty of "idle, disorderly and vagrancy charges." The court 
filed additional charges against Charlotte for keeping a house 
of ill fame and found her guilty of "murderous assault." She 
was given a five-to-eight-year sentence and sent to the Re- 
formatory for Women. 

The gates of the institution had hardly closed on Charlotte 
when she began to exert pressure to get an early release. 
Clergymen, lawyers, volunteer "do-gooders" all appealed to 

"Just Drunk?" 77 

the Parole Board on "this unusual case." The month never 
passed when we did not get a letter or a visit from some new 
person. They always stated that Charlotte had learned her 
lesson, and was needed in the community to mother her chil- 
dren. These dabblers were sure, after listening to her, that 
the judge was wrong in committing her. Even the warden got 
sentimental and wrote a letter asking for a "special early 
release," adding that she was convinced further incarceration 
"would not be helpful in this type case." However, the 
Parole Board did not see any reason for "special consideration" 
and did not release Charlotte until "regular time." Three 
years in prison and five years of supervision would be, we felt, 
the minimum time needed to teach her a new way of life. 

At the parole interview, Charlotte put on a sales talk that 
would have convinced a layman. She would never touch 
liquor again. It was the basis of all her troubles. She just 
wanted to work and get a home together for her children. 
We voted to release her, because this was her first commitment 
to the Reformatory, and her case was the kind that benefits 
from trial under supervision. 

We were able to get Charlotte an excellent domestic place- 
ment in a fashionable community where there was no liquor 
license. She was to receive her room and board and thirty 
dollars a week, with one afternoon and evening off. If she 
proved emotionally stable, her privileges would be increased. 
In a year the agent and Charlotte could map out a plan for 
her to live on her own, though still, of course, checked by the 
agent. Then Charlotte would do office work, which she was 
well suited to do by experience and superior intellect. 

Her parole agent asked the private agency (responsible for 
her children) for permission for Charlotte to visit them on her 
day off. The parole agent decided to drive her on this first 
trip because the journey by bus would take Charlotte through 
the city and, perchance, tempt her to look up some of her old 
friends and haunts. Charlotte told her agent that, by luck, 
this first day off was also her daughter Nancy's birthday. She 


would so like to take her a cake. Since it was impossible for 
Charlotte to purchase one in the town where she worked, the 
agent promised to stop by a bakery and get one for her. 

The great day arrived. The agent with birthday cake in 
hand waited for three busses, but no Charlotte! A telephone 
call to her employer proved she had left at the appointed time, 
but ten days passed with no word. Charlotte never did return 
to her employer's house. 

One day not long after a disheveled, hysterical vision dashed 
into {he parole office with a taxi driver in hot pursuit. Char- 
lotte had evaded the fare. One heel was off her black satin 
high-heeled shoes; her black satin dress, with the keyhole 
neckline, was filthy; her ruddy brown hair was bleached 
straw and Charlotte was very drunk. She was so inco- 
herently drunk that she didn't even recognize us in the parole 
division, the very people to whom she had made so many 
promises. We had no alternative but to revoke her parole. 

Gradually the background of Charlotte's story emerged. 
Apparently she had invaded her sister's house to see her daugh- 
ter Nancy, who was living there. The sister had had to call 
the police, and the chief had still not recovered from the 
effects of Charlotte's rampage. He reported that she had made 
the previous night hideous with her determined efforts to 
enter the sister's house. He believed she should never be 
released again and he believed it with emphasis. 

In her routine search of Charlotte before taking her back 
to the Reformatory, the agent found a pawn ticket in her 
pocket. She made the rounds of the pawn shops and finally 
found that the ticket was for a brand-new ring, still in its box, 
with the twelve-dollar price tag still on it. The agent paid 
the three-dollar pawn charge, and when the pawnbroker 
heard the story he wouldn't take the interest to which he was 

On her next trip through the area, our agent stopped at 
little Nancy's foster home to give her the ring her mother so 
wanted her to have. It was too big so she took Nancy to the 

"Just Drunk?" 79 

local jeweler, and paid fifty cents to have the ring fitted. The 
child didn't ask where or how her mother was. Undoubtedly, 
with the wisdom of children, she knew. 

After ten years' experience with releasing and supervising 
female prisoners into the community, I have come to know 
many of these girls quite thoroughly. We try to build a sound 
relationship with all the parolees, especially with the more 
serious cases, and we hope each girl will come to us for counsel 
and aid when she is in the community. This system has a 
twofold purpose: first, we are there when she needs us most; 
and second, she learns, when problems come to her (as they 
do to us all) to seek help from a reliable source. As long as 
she doesn't wait until her troubles bring her to disaster, the 
parolee will always find help from either state or private 
agencies. But, if she delays too long, the law necessarily steps 
in with drastic action. Through the years, it is amazing to see 
the number of individuals who keep coming to see us or who 
write us long after they are off parole. They really regard the 
Board or their agents as their first friends. We often open the 
mail in the morning to find a picture of a new baby or a snap- 
shot of a child all dressed up for First Communion. Another 
letter may tell us that Mary and Tom have the house roofed 
over even though they can't buy windows yet. They may 
have a new refrigerator, besides a goat and seven geese, and 
they are all getting on nicely. 

Such good news gives us a spiritual pat on the back! 

But, because of the cases I have cited and many others I 
could cite, we on the Board have profound respect for the role 
that liquor plays in many women's criminal careers. If we are 
to find a single key that is important to both the parole agent 
and to the parolee in their combined efforts to rebuild a good 
citizen, it will be found in the successful control of the use of 
liquor by the prisoner. You will see in the following chapters 
how often alcoholism is at the bottom of all kinds of tragedies. 


There's Always Hope 

No WORDS of mine can be of direct aid to a serious alcoholic, 
but I firmly believe that Alcoholics Anonymous can be, not 
only to those who wish to stop drinking but also to those who 
have reached the stage where their will is destroyed, so that 
it is no longer possible for them to give it up without help. 
Each of our prisons has a branch of Alcoholics Anonymous, 
visited each week by members from the outside who explain 
their program to any interested inmates and encourage them 
to attend regular meetings as soon as they are released. I 
cannot stress too enthusiastically my feelings for the work the 
A.A.'s do, and my only regret is that so few prisoners embrace 
the program. We have seen them bring about some remark- 
able adjustments in cases that without their help we would 
have regarded as extremely poor risks. 

Joining an A.A. group is an entirely voluntary procedure. 
The individual must first show that she needs and really wants 
help. Once the A.A.'s have the patient's desire to start from, 
they work night and day, with an indefatigable zeal which is 
simply amazing, to help the new member become a useful and 
happy member of society. Perhaps the most important aspect 
of their tireless efforts to a parolee is the readily available 
social program that every A.A. group provides. All released 
prisoners have been sorely dislocated from any established 
niche in society by their recent imprisonment as well as by the 
period of disorderly living that probably led up to it. Since 
every A.A. has also been through a similar dislocation, he can 
give a newly released parolee with a history of alcoholism a 
place where she can, if she only will, always find an under- 

There's Always Hope 81 

standing and congenial social group in the framework of the 
A.A. clubs. Everyone there has been lonely; they all have 
failed in one way or another; and the regular members have 
all found a way to overcome their failure. They know first- 
hand what the new member is going through, so they ask no 
questions and have no inordinate curiosity about the other 
person's life. Self-pity ends the moment one crosses the 
threshold of an A.A. meeting. There is so much work to be 
done helping others who are much worse off that there is no 
time for anyone to think about himself at all. The enthusiasm 
of the members for their work seems to be contagious. I have 
often seen docile and mild-mannered girls become enthusiastic 
crusaders, "once they got the program." 

At a release hearing, the Board always urges a girl with a 
history of alcoholism to attend A.A. meetings after her release. 
It would be futile to make it a condition of parole, because 
there would be no merit or value in attendance at meetings if 
the girl did not do it voluntarily; but we do try to arrange the 
individual girl's placement and program so she can attend the 
regular meetings if she has indicated she feels that doing so 
will help her. 

We ha,d a young woman some years ago who joined the 
program while she was still in the institution, and whose case 
perfectly illustrates the value of the A.A. work in prisons. 
Had she waited until she was outside, even with the best 
intentions in the world, she would never have come close to 
a meeting. 

Martha was serving a first commitment for neglect of her 
minor children when she was presented to us in regular order 
for release. Her record showed a long history of marital 
trouble during which she and her husband had been hurling 
charges and countercharges back and forth at each other for 
years. Both had been definitely alcoholic for a long time and 
were a serious trial to the probation officers who had tried to 
work with them in an effort to keep the family together. 


When Martha and her husband Harry were sober they were 
wonderfully congenial and kept a good home for their happy 
children. Harry was a master steamfitter and was capable of 
earning an extremely good week's pay. He had often worked 
unbelievably long hours, seven days a week, to fix up some 
vital piece of equipment in the war plant where he worked. 
In order to keep going without sleep he drank more and more, 
and the drunker he got the more he wanted to drink. His 
immediate boss tolerated Harry because he never had another 
man who, drunk or sober, could turn out the volume of work 
Harry could do in a crisis. 

During the pressure of the war years, as Harry was working 
and drinking himself almost into oblivion, Martha was at home 
caring for the children as they came along. She was one of 
those childlike personalities who constantly crave excitement. 
When Harry had been courting her they had been a pair of 
expert dancers and had traveled far and wide, dancing in every 
sort of amateur entertainment that was popular at the time. 
Then, as he began to stay away from home, working nights, 
Martha started feeling jealous and began nagging him when- 
ever he did come home. Soon he found it much easier to stay 
downtown at one of the taverns where everybody appre- 
ciated him than to face a tired, scolding wife and a house full 
of untidy crying children. 

Martha, equally dissatisfied with her lot, spent much of her 
time "cabin hunting" with her neighbors. First she would 
drop in on one, then another, and soon she was secretly taking 
a drink here and a nip there. As time went on, although she 
did not appear in public as a drunkard, she developed into a 
steady secret drinker. 

After the war, when the extra money for overtime vanished, 
Harry would spend most of his pay being a big shot at the 
tavern and come home broke. Other times he would come 
home cold sober and find his children in such terrible con- 
dition that he would work himself into a rage and start a 

There's Always Hope 83 

serious quarrel with Martha. Soon they were behind with the 
rent and when the landlord evicted them, they could not find 
a decent place to live. The housing situation was still acute 
and no one wanted to accept a family with three children 
which was being evicted. 

This crisis brought Harry to his senses. He gave up liquor 
for three months and finally found an apartment on the lower 
floor of a large old single dwelling where he could install his 
family. The two elderly men who owned the house moved 
upstairs and arranged to have Martha do housework for them 
in part payment of the rent. 

For a while all went well, until Harry began to hear stories 
from Martha's female friends, who would drop hints about 
Martha's activities. When Hazel implied that Martha's in- 
terest in the old men who lived upstairs was much more than 
that of a neighbor or housekeeper, Harry disregarded the 
stories. But as time went on and he found Martha away from 
home and the children alone every time he came home, he 
accused her of misbehaving and threatened to kill the old men. 
Martha screamed back at him that he spent all his pay at the 
tavern, so she had to go out to work to earn the rent and feed 
the children. Soon the bickering became brawling, and the 
brawling became fighting, and a neighbor finally called the 
police. After the judge had listened to both sides of the story 
he found Martha guilty of neglect and put her on probation 
with a serious warning to go home, clean up the house, give 
up drinking, and report to the probation officer. The judge 
dismissed Harry's case, after a long private conversation with 
him at the bench. 

Once more calm reigned for a few months, until Harry 
started to drink again. He and Martha went into the same 
merry-go-round of drunkenness and neglect, charges and 
countercharges, abuse and recriminations, climaxed this time 
when Martha gave birth to a little girl baby, Claire, and Harry 
claimed that one of the old men had been the father. Martha 


denied the accusation with vehemence and charged, in turn, 
that he was carrying on with Hazel, her erstwhile friend. 

Once Harry stopped drinking for six months, came home 
regularly, and would have settled down into a normal family 
life, except for the fact that Martha never seemed to be able 
to keep the children as clean or the house as tidy as Harry's 
standards required. The bickering broke out again, and this 
time Harry got out entirely and went downtown to live at a 
men's hotel. 

Finally, after another little boy had been born, Martha sued 
for and won separate support. Harry couldn't quite believe 
that such a thing could happen to him. Although he met the 
court order to support his family regularly, he lived in a night- 
mare and devoted his entire time to drinking, with a bottle 
beside him when he slept at night and at work during the day. 
While he was slowly killing himself in his misery, the dismal 
boredom of Martha's life was beating her down and driving 
her back to her secret drinking. Although she had been canny 
enough in the beginning to sober up before she went to report 
to the probation officer, she soon slumped completely and was 
brought into court for violating her probation by neglecting 
her children. 

She was immediately sent to the Reformatory to start serv- 
ing the full two-year sentence which the judge had originally 
suspended when he put her on probation. Harry was brought 
into court and found guilty of neglect too, but his case was 
placed on file on condition that he stop drinking and pay the 
state for the support of his five children, who were placed 
under the temporary custody of the Division of Child Guardi- 
anship of the State Department of Public Welfare. 

Martha made an excellent adjustment at the Reformatory, 
where she gave birth to another boy. The Parole Board saw 
her at her regular hearing and found her to be a reasonable and 
sensible woman, who told us her commitment had given her 
time to take stock of herself and face reality. She accepted 

There's Always Hope 85 

full blame for her part in the disaster she had brought on their 
children by not being able or willing to keep a good home and 
take care of them. She really loved her children and was 
heartbroken to be separated from them for almost a year. 

With her new perspective, she was beginning to appreciate 
Harry too. When she compared him to the abusive or even 
vicious and criminal husbands she heard about from the other 
women in the Reformatory, Martha began to remember all his 
fine characteristics and the happiness of their early years to- 
gether. She had joined A.A. and had attended its meetings 
faithfully for several months before her hearing. Remember- 
ing her own experiences, she could and did enthusiastically 
accept the program completely and was determined never 
to touch that first drink. Spurred on by the new hope A.A. 
had given her, she was looking forward to her release as a time 
when she could start to re-establish a home that would really 
be a happy one. 

Harry had come to see her often during her commitment, 
and every time he came she tried to persuade him to go to the 
A.A.'s, but he wouldn't tolerate the idea and told her that he 
didn't need help from anyone, much less them. He was always 
sober when he came to see her, but she was sure that he was 
still drinking, especially when he would indignantly tell her 
that he could stop drinking any time he wanted to by himself. 
Despite Martha's good intentions, the same old boastful Harry 
could always rile her, and their meetings inevitably ended in 
an argument. 

Martha made up her mind not to live with Harry until he 
stopped drinking entirely, so the probation officer, the local 
welfare worker, and her agent worked together to establish 
Martha in a tenement with her own furniture, which had been 
in storage, and with all of her children. Since one of her chief 
requests was that she be allowed to attend A.A. meetings one 
night a week, her agent arranged for a younger, unmarried 
sister to come in those evenings and spend the night. 


Martha did well right from the very beginning, but much 
to our surprise Harry did not come back to live with her. He 
continued to supply support for the children and under the 
agreement was allowed to have his two oldest boys spend 
week ends with him, as they had been doing all the time 
Martha had been away. We had expected that seeing her 
progress so beautifully would make him weaken and come 
home, at least for the sake of the children. But no. He con- 
tinued to live at the men's hotel, although he worked steadily. 
Martha told her agent that he flatly refused to join her because 
he was not a hypocrite and was not going to say he would give 
up drinking when he knew he never would. He continued to 
ridicule the A.A. program and now that Martha was taking 
such good care of the children that he could no longer com- 
plain, he used that as an excuse to squabble about. 

One day, after Martha had been in the community about 
five months, she and Harry came into the Parole Office to talk 
to Martha's agent, who was happily astonished when Martha 
asked blanket permission to leave the state. She had finally 
won her point, and Harry had suddenly stopped drinking, 
come home to live, and joined the Alcoholics Anonymous 
group with her. He found it so rewarding that he wanted her 
to be able to go to other meetings in the neighboring state with 

While the agent and Martha were in the next room filling 
out the papers for the out-of-state permission, Harry stayed 
in my office. Although I knew from my routine study of the 
agent's running record of Martha's case that she and Harry 
had been reconciled, I was surprised at how completely re- 
united they seemed to be and at how suddenly they had 
reached such thorough understanding. To find out more 
about it I asked Harry a couple of leading questions, and in no 
time he started off on his story. 

"It all happened very quickly in the end," he said as he 
leaned way forward in his chair and spoke in a low strong 

There's Always Hope 87 

voice, glancing over his shoulder all the time as if he were 
afraid his wife might hear what he was saying. "I had only 
worked one day that week and I had really been drinking. 
I was a big shot ... I earned big money . . . had my own 
business . . . taught half the lads in the city the steamfitting 
trade . . . but, what of that? I'm a bum . . . just a bum . . . and 
I know it. Lady, you couldn't be interested . . . you . . . you've 
got the whole story there ... no one's kidding you, you know 
how low I went . . . low is a nice word for it. Ma'am, don't 
let me interrupt you . . . you go on with your work. You 
couldn't be interested . . . but once I used to be someone and 
by God I'm going to be again. 

"Now that week I was telling you about, sure I'd been 
drunk, really drunk . . . orry-eyed. And I knew she'd nag 
the life out of me if I tried to go home to sleep." He started 
off, feeling more confidence as he graphically described the 
events of that week and then slowly started the long sordid 
story of the fatigue of the war work and the troubles of his 
first ten years of married life, which of course I already knew. 
He frankly admitted that when anything came up that seemed 
like too much for him, he would try to escape from it in drink. 
If the work was too hard, he drank more. If the house was 
dirty he drank so he could kid himself that he could not stand 
to go home and see his children neglected. When Martha 
started to drink, he drank all the harder so as not to have rime 
to think about where his marriage was heading. Then that 
awful day when they were both brought into court. He 
sobered up before he went in and heard the probation officer 
describe the sordid conditions of his own home and family, 
which he realized that morning for the first time were true. 
He walked out of the court admitting to himself that he was 
a failure and that he was a potential suicide. He could not 
accept the truth. He was still a big shot. He, the best steam- 
fitter in the country, the best dancer in the area, the best this 
and the best that. And now he had been before the judge, 


just as a bum. He certainly could not face that, so he decided 
to take the easy way out. For a couple of hours he walked 
around the city dazed, thinking out ways to commit suicide, 
but he couldn't do that either, so he headed once more for a 
barroom and decided to take the cowardly way and drink 
himself into oblivion. 

Harry quickly sketched the next few years as he continued 
on his positive course to an easy death, only the death never 
arrived that way. Morning always came and he had to get up 
and go to work. He claimed, with a shy grin, that he believed 
himself to hold all the records in his city for drinking, and I 
presume that this is true. He went on to tell how his love for 
Martha turned to hate when he believed the story Hazel had 
told him, that his only daughter, little Claire, was not his 
child. Then how the hate was intensified when Martha was 
in the Reformatory and was so reasonable about all their 
problems. Things were even worse when she came out and 
could have turned again to drink so he could have felt justified 
in the scorn he wantfcd to feel for her. But no. Now all she 
did was nag him about the A.A. On and on he went with his 
soliloquy, just as if I were not there at all and he were talking 
to himself. He told of the week end about three months 
before when on Saturday noon he had met his two oldest boys, 
Jack and Fred, who were to spend the week end with him as 
usual. He told of previously hiding a quart of gin in the closet 
of his dingy room in the men's hotel, for he never dared to go 
to a tavern or be seen drinking on a day the probation officer 
was giving him a permit to have the boys with him. He de- 
scribed his torture as the hours of the afternoon dragged out 
while he sat parched in a movie waiting with the boys until 
it was time to give them a meal at the automat and then take 
them to his room to sleep. 

Even then there was no peace for him. He went on to tell 
of his sufferings as he lay writhing on a cot waiting for the 
boys to settle down and go to sleep so he could safely creep 

There's Always Hope 89 

over to the closet to his cache of gin. Vividly he pictured 
those two little boys turning and twisting in their sleep as they 
were bitten by the usual crop of bedbugs that tenanted his bed 
where they were sleeping. He told of finishing the entire 
quart that night ... of the unbelievable hangover that tor- 
mented him in the morning ... of his waking and hearing the 
boys talking to each other . . . and his pretending to still be 

The younger boy Jackie had said in a whisper, "Freddy, 
do you think Daddy has bugs in that cot he is sleeping in?" 

"Sure, this whole joint has them." 

"Then why doesn't Daddy come home to live?" 

"I don't know, maybe he doesn't want to," said Freddy. 

"I don't see why he doesn't, Freddy. He's a good daddy. 
He's not like Stuart's daddy, who always hits him every time 
he meets him on the street, or Charles's, who knocked him 
down when he asked him for a quarter to go to the movies. 
I say he's a good daddy and I don't see why he won't come 
home. We wouldn't have to come and try to sleep in this 
lousy joint if he would come home. Why won't he? Have 
you anything against him, Freddy?" continued little Jackie. 

"No," replied Freddy, half asleep. "Only why does he 
have to get drunk every time he takes us out?" Then both 
boys were quiet. 

Harry sat back in the chair as he reached this part of his 
story and he told me that for once in life he was faced with a 
situation he could not and did not wish to escape. The scorn 
of his own children was something he had never thought 
about, and that day, at that minute, he admitted to himself 
that if ever a man needed help he needed it, and that after all 
Martha might be right. He'd give it a try anyhow. One thing 
was certain, he had taken his last drink. 

Just then Martha and her agent came back into the office to 
get my signature on the out-of-state permission blank which, 
of course, I was delighted to sign. That finished the business, 


but before Martha and Harry left for home they showed us 
snapshots of the family, all together at a picnic they had gone 
to the previous Sunday. As a closing remark, made in sort of 
a whimsical way as if to clear his conscience completely, Harry 
said, "Even if I say so myself, they're as fine a looking bunch 
of kids as you ever saw, and little Claire looks just like my 

Before the public officials had finally stepped in, Harry and 
Martha had been quite typical of the neglect cases that come 
to their attention. They were actually found guilty of neglect, 
yet they had neglected their children because they had both 
been drinking for years. The primary cause was much more 
deep-seated than that, however, and even they will probably 
never be able to diagnose it, but through the medium of the 
A.A. program they found a solution to it and a way to live 
useful lives. Even though alcoholism is still shrouded with 
darkness as far as scientific knowledge is concerned, we know 
from its many conspicuous successes that the A.A. program 
is lighting a path in the right direction. 

The great hope in helping criminals comes in the steps that 
can be taken to remove the factors that lead them to crime. 
Since alcoholism is one of the most important of those factors, 
I cannot stress too strongly how important I believe the work 
of the A.A. program to be. The organization's official open 
letter speaks for itself, and I am reprinting it here so that more 
people can learn of its good work. 


Are you, by chance, a person whose relatives or friends are 
concerned and worried by your drinking? Do you suffer hang- 
overs of physical torture and mental anguish? Then know this; 
most likely you have a disease known to medical science and to 
Alcoholics Anonymous as ALCOHOLISM. You are not a wilful 
person, stubbornly bent on self-destruction; you are desperately 

There's Always Hope 91 

sick, with an enormously complex disease of body, of the brain, 
of the mind and of the soul. Punishment is not the answer. You 
need kindly help. 

Alcoholics Anonymous can arrest your disease, restore you to 
peace of mind, can make your life a useful one, and can re-estab- 
lish you in all happy relationships. It is the A.A. way to show 
you that you are allergic to alcohol, as the diabetic is allergic 
to sweets. It is the A.A. way to restore you to physical, mental 
and spiritual health. It is not a religion. It is based on medicine, 
psychiatry and on religion in general. In A.A. those who have 
recovered from this disease show the newcomers the how of 
their new happiness. There are more than one hundred thousand 
(100,000) recovered alcoholics in A.A. They are more than will- 
ing to help anyone who is sincerely looking for the answer. They 
guarantee that any person afflicted with alcoholism can be re- 
stored to a normal happy life, provided he does just what each 
one of them has done. A person who will not want to be free is 
beyond help ... he will eventually die an alcoholic or insane 

So, if you have ever wondered if the whole world seems against 
you, why you are so often "in the soup," why you have lost so 
many of the good things of life, look to your drinking. And if 
you have had all the punishment that you want, all the suffering 
that you can bear, please try the A.A. way. It's free; it's simple; 
and it is guaranteed to bring you health and happiness. 

Consult your phone book for the nearest A.A. If there is not 
one listed ask Information. 


Far From Glamorous 

IF YOU SHOULD ASK the next ten women you meet what a 
prostitute is, you would probably get either of two defini- 
tions. If you ask a mature woman, she will describe a sluttish 
hag. If you ask a younger woman, she will sketch a volup- 
tuous blonde, a success story complete with mink coat, 
night clubs, and all the trimmings. Statistically speaking, the 
first would come nearer to giving the correct answer. 

In this respect prostitutes are like all other women crim- 
inals. There are very few old or even elderly ones. Many, 
of course, "learn their lesson," actually understand their prob- 
lem, and as they mature settle down to lead decent lives. 
Some shack up with one man; nothing more is heard from 
them. The others just don't live that long. They contract 
tuberculosis from their bad living habits, or die deaths of 
violence. How often a corpse pulled from the harbor or river 
is one of our girls, or the " 132-pound female, blond hair, 
upper front teeth missing, found frozen in snowbank," is 
finally identified as Barbara known to our department. 

We often see women with white hair or no hair, wrinkled 
as a dried prune, toothless, deaf, lame, physically deformed 
and distorted, and mentally so far deteriorated they just don't 
care. Their condition is the result of disorderly living, and 
even though they look past seventy they are only in their 
middle forties. With the drink and venereal disease they in- 
variably suffer from, and the abuse they receive, they don't 
last any longer than that. 

I've come to know plenty of prostitutes, and they are a 
sorry lot. Almost every woman who comes before us has had 

Far From Glamorous 93 

sex experience and most of them, extramarital activity. Out 
of well over 3000 women prisoners, I recall only one woman 
who was still a virgin. I don't mean to say that all women 
offenders are prostitutes, but it is safe to say that if they have 
been indulging in crime very long, they have resorted to pros- 
titution as a livelihood at one time or another. 

In her heyday, the professional prostitute rarely comes be- 
fore the Board. She has protection and is never brought to 
court in the first place. But she ages, and by the time the 
Board sees her, she is a poor parole risk for two reasons: first, 
she has never developed regular working habits or trained 
skills to make her employable; second, she tells the Board that 
she's turned over a new leaf and she may even mean it at 
that particular moment but, since she is invariably an al- 
coholic, it's doubtful if she can keep her promise. 

The record of a real prostitute often includes thirty-five 
arrests, twenty charges filed, six five-dollar fines, two ten-day 
jail sentences, and seven warnings to get out of town fast. 
Although a prostitute may be a poor risk, I as a Board member 
feel there is no hopeless case. Each woman is worthy of the 
benefit of the doubt and a chance to live in a new environ- 
ment under new circumstances, under parole supervision and 
in a job and a home where she can work out a new future. 

Mattie's case was the kind that makes us pessimistic. She 
was serving her first long sentence, five years for lewd and 
lascivious cohabitation. In the last ten years, she had been 
arrested eight times for drunkenness, vagrancy, and idle and 
disorderly conduct, but she had served only one jail term, and 
that for only thirty days. 

Although Mattie's parents were dead, she still lived in the 
small coastal city where she was born. Her only sister had 
married and moved away, and she wrote us that after many 
disappointments she had given up trying to help willfully 
stubborn Mattie. 


Mattie, thirty-seven at the time of her parole, had been 
married for four years to a seventy-one-year-old man. They 
had never established a home, but moved around in cheap 
lodgings from one city to the next and back again. Mattie's 
employment record was nil, and when she was arrested, her 
husband, George, had been caught pimping for her. He was 
sent to a house of correction for six months for this offense. 
When we saw Mattie for parole, he had already been 
released and was living alone in a top-floor room (without 
heat or cooking facilities) in seamen's quarters. His love for 
Mattie was unquestioned, and though he was too old and 
feeble to travel far, he wrote her constantly, and kindly 
neighbors wrote us of his pathetic situation. 

I had not even tried to imagine what Mattie was like. She 
appeared in due course, reserved and sullenly evasive. She 
was dark-haired, blue-eyed, and had babylike skin without a 
wrinkle or blemish, a veritable "peaches and cream" com- 
plexion. She was rugged and of medium build and even in 
her flowered cotton institution dress, she reminded me of a 
a cinnamon bear solid and sullen bearing down upon us. 

Our records told us Mattie was almost normal mentally, 
with a below average IQ of 92 and six years of grammar 
school training. One could not help wondering how or where 
she had spent the past twenty years of her life. The penal 
authorities saw no benefit to anyone in holding her any longer 
and highly recommended her for release, since, though a 
solitary woman, she could do ordinary routine work. 

During the few minutes of her Board interview, Mattie de- 
fied our best efforts to draw her out or to make friends. Her 
replies were monosyllabic and sullen, except when we dis- 
cussed her husband. Then she verged on being co-operative 
and insisted that he needed her to care for him. Finally, we 
asked her to step out of the room. We had learned so little 
from the interview that we delved deeply into every phase 
of her case with the institution's officials. It was her first 
Reformatory sentence, and her husband's need of her did 

Far From Glamorous 95 

appear urgent. We hoped that perhaps with community as- 
sistance some solution could be found for the salvation of this 
apparently devoted couple, but we still hesitated a long time 
and stifled many doubts before we voted unanimously for 
her parole. When we called Mattie back into the room to 
tell her the news, she merely grunted assent and waddled off 
like a bear to wait, while the agent made a home and work 
investigation, for her actual release. 

The agent returned disheartened after a visit to George in 
his room in the most disreputable building of a destitute local- 
ity. In normal times, she could and would not have approved 
it as suitable for any woman parolee, but we knew that the 
housing shortage (especially near the big industrial cities) was 
still acute, and that one was lucky to find quarters of any sort. 
George was living on Old Age Assistance and our agent went 
over his case with the Welfare Department, who felt with us 
that since they were man and wife we should not keep them 
apart. All agreed Mattie should be released to live with 
George in his room for the first few days while she tried to 
find factory or day work. At the end of the first week, when 
she proved her earning capacity, the welfare official and her 
parole agent would find a satisfactory living arrangement for 

Mattie was released in time for Christmas. The parole 
agent felt a solitary trip through town, with all the commut- 
ing changes, might be too complicated for Mattie or too 
tempting for one of her temperament, so she drove her 
right to George's door. January that year was one of the 
stormiest we ever had. During the month the agent stopped 
every week to visit Mattie and George and never found any- 
one at home. This was to be expected, however, as one could 
not hope to find two adults staying all day in an unheated 
third floor room. We received neatly written reports from 
Mattie each week saying she had looked for work every day 
but as yet hadn't found any. After three weeks of such re- 
ports, the agent talked with the welfare agent, who was 


equally disturbed because she couldn't reach George. They 
heard that George went to the movies every day to keep 
warm, which seemed like a harmless and amusing pastime for 
him. The fallacy in this was that the couple had no additional 
income beyond George's Old Age Assistance, and that could 
certainly not be stretched very much. It barely was enough 
to keep him alive much less provide for the robustly 
vigorous Mattie. 

The next time the agent was at our office we talked it over 
with her and decided that since the weather had been so bad 
there was some excuse for the couple. We agreed to leave 
the case in her hands a while longer, and she wrote Mattie 
to inform her of the time of her next visit and to tell her to 
be in their room waiting for her if she was still unemployed. 
If Mattie had a job, she was to have George there, to tell our 
agent about themselves. If* neither George nor Mattie could 
be there, she was to leave full written information with the 

The agent returned to us next week with little to report. 
She had learned from the uncommunicative landlady that 
they left the house regularly at breakfast time and returned 
about ten o'clock at night. The next week, after more con- 
sideration by the Board, we wrote Mattie to come, for two 
reasons, to the Parole Board office on the following Thurs- 
day, the day her agent would be in town. (First, the parole 
field agent must be present at such interviews to give us the 
benefit of her judgment, based on her close knowledge of the 
case. She is familiar with the tricks of the individual offender, 
and she has all the facts at her fingertips in any particular 
case. Second, the Board must never by-pass an agent or un- 
dermine her client's esteem of her.) 

Another week went by and our letter was completely ig- 
nored. But news always begins to leak out after a time, usually 
through another welfare recipient. We learned that the 
couple traveled to and from their quarters in a taxi. At this 
level of society neighbors give little co-operation to anyone 

Far From Glamorous 97 

seeking information, and when the agent tried to check these 
reports the landlady and the taxi driver feigned complete 
ignorance. There were several possible courses of action for 
us to follow. First, of course, might have been for the Board 
to issue a warrant on the grounds of "whereabouts unknown" 
or "failure to co-operate" and ask the police to pick up Mattie 
and we would return her to the Reformatory on revocation 
of her parole. Second, we could delay a little longer, hoping 
that since the agent's letters had not been returned maybe 
Mattie had delayed answering for some valid reason and 
would report in due time of her own volition. Lastly, since 
we had some reliable information to start from, we could ask 
the police to investigate. That is what we finally decided to 
do. The agent suspected that Mattie had returned to prostitu- 
tion, but we all hoped this was not true. 

A parole offender should be carefully supervised and 
promptly reimprisoned or otherwise disciplined if she does 
not demonstrate the capacity or willingness to fulfill the obli- 
gations of the release agreement. However, the actual mental 
capacity of many of our charges is so low that what would 
appear to be actual resistance may only be a form of inertia 
and basic incompetence that the particular girl is unable to 
overcome. That is why the agent's detailed summary of her 
contacts with each girl, which are always available on the 
running record at the office, are so important. Equally im- 
portant is the agent's acquaintance with and assistance from 
the local police department at all times. The parole agent's 
task is rightfully restricted to the supervision of persons who 
are law-abiding citizens. Detection and suppression of crime 
are functions of the police department. We have found that 
most police departments are more than willing to help an 
agent; for that matter, now that there is a better understand- 
ing of the purpose of parole, most police departments are en- 
thusiastic over having the released ex-prisoner under super- 

To get back to Mattie: it was only a few days before the 


agent received a quite complete report from the police de- 
partment of the couple's activities. Every day George and 
Mattie taxied to one of several construction projects outside 
the city. There, in some almost completed modern building, 
with husband George as procurer and business agent, wife 
Mattie conducted a thriving prostitution business all day long 
with various laborers. 

At seven o'clock the next morning our agent was on the 
doorstep of their lodging house, where she intercepted them 
on their way to the taxi. She invited them to step, instead, 
into the state car. When they protested that they had yet 
to have breakfast, she obligingly drove them to a restaurant 
far from their usual haunts and waited for them to eat before 
she brought them to Boston. 

At the Board's office, the local police, the welfare agent, 
the parole agent and the Board held a telephone conference 
and decided to return Mattie for parole violation so that a 
new court trial would not be needed; George, in his feeble 
old age (never in trouble except when involved by Mattie), 
should return to the welfare office of his city. By going vol- 
untarily, he would qualify for treatment at the city infirmary 
where he would be under some constant supervision. When 
these objectives had been decided, Mattie and George were 
escorted into the Board Room by their patiently kind little 
woman parole officer. 

Never had I seen such a filthy couple. Mattie still wore 
the low-necked dress in which she had left the institution 
seven weeks before, but it looked as though she hadn't been 
out of it night or day. Her face was clean and soft (pink 
and white as ever), but the deep-black embedded creases 
of her grimy neck ran down into even deeper gullies of gray 
filth on her exposed bosom. Her hair, caught in a few hair- 
pins, was drawn tightly to one side of the nape of her neck 
in an old-fashioned bun. There was another excrescence, 
about three inches around, a bit to the side and above the bun 

Far From Glamorous 99 

which turned out to be a seething nest of lice. Her forearms 
and hands were dirtier than I can describe, ripped with 
quarter-inch, jet-black fingernails. George was even worse 
in his dirty dejection. 

The Board, as is its custom, asked Mattie to tell her story. 
She started glibly enough until George started to heckle and 
contradict her. After they dilly-dallied about with the truth 
for a while, the Board gave them the facts which the police 
had discovered. Mattie returned to her mutely sullen manner, 
but George, inspired by heaven knows what, suddenly ad- 
mitted everything and even produced names, dates, and vul- 
gar details. He bragged pompously of the accomplishments 
of his loved one and terminated his monologue with the smug 
revelation that Mattie got three dollars and usually five dollars 
for each "incident." George had been able to live well, to 
eat regularly and heartily and even go to the movies. He had 
saved up $181 from her work and that money was now in 
their room. 

All the Board members sat in silence. After what seemed 
[ike an eternity, the Chairman turned to the agent and Mattie 
and said with firm finality, "We'll have to believe this to be 
true, because both the story by the police and husband are 
the same. Mattie, your parole is over." At the same time, he 
must have pressed his foot buzzer. The armed male super- 
visor who always sits just outside the Board Room was just 
opening the door when Mattie lunged her bulky body at the 
Board. In spite of her powerful arms, they weren't quite 
long enough to reach across the massive table between us. 
It took three male agents five full minutes to subdue her 
sufficiently for her to be led handcuffed (still under her own 
power) to the waiting car. As soon as the revocation warrant 
was prepared and actually served on her, Mattie was returned 
to the Reformatory, by both a male and female officer. 

That is the only time we have ever had to call in male help 
to subdue a woman in an office interview. During the scuffle, 


everyone had to move so fast trying to keep clear of Mattie 
as she lunged first at one and then the other of the Board 
members that George's maneuvering retreat was overlooked. 
He was found crouched behind a chair in a far corner of the 
room. The furniture was set back in its customary position, 
and though not completely calm or unruffled, we returned 
to work in quiet relief. The Chairman told George quite 
simply that his local Board of Public Welfare wished to see 
and help him. George reflected a moment, then, with his usual 
adaptability to situations, gave Mattie's parole officer a know- 
ing wink and said, "How about driving me down?' 7 Needless 
to say, George was delivered to the welfare officer. He was 
accompanied by a typed report of our stormy interview as 
well as by a male transportation officer. 

The following month we went to the Reformatory to see 
Mattie, as we do all girls whose paroles have been revoked, 
to tell her how much more of her sentence she had to serve 
before being considered for another parole trial in the com- 
munity. The Chairman read Mattie's name and asked the 
Board's opinion. The vote was unanimous. Without a single 
word of discussion, Mattie was voted "maximum." It is most 
unusual to find a married couple who work together in this 
sort of a racket. The Board has long since forgotten the his- 
tory of Mattie's parole failure, but no one of us will ever for- 
get how we felt as Mattie charged at us as if she were a primi- 
tive animal. 

Parole had nothing beneficial to offer this type of woman. 
We seek never to lose sight of the fact that the safety of the 
community is our first regard. Another trial for Mattie would 
probably end with even more dismal results and would harm 
the system and ruin the chances for the overwhelming major- 
ity of the women who do succeed at least in their own 
way. But Mattie is really an exception. More women want 
to and try to co-operate in parole than those who sneak, cheat, 
or are just "plain ornery" under supervision. 


The Unwed Mother 

THE UNWED MOTHER is usually a solitary being who has been 
wandering about seeking approval or affection. Many times 
she is extremely plain-looking and her normal life has been 
marred by serious skin disease, partial blindness, or some other 
disfiguring physical handicap. Seldom, if ever, is the excessive 
use of alcohol connected with a first illegitimate pregnancy. 
When considering an unwed mother and child for release, the 
fate of the child is more important to me than the mother. 
There are two major questions which these women present 
to us for settlement. First, does the girl sincerely want to 
raise her own child? Is she willing to make sacrifices to do it? 
Does she realize how confining this may prove to be? Not 
now, when the dear little baby gurgles and smiles, and stays 
put, but in two years when the child is running about, get- 
ting into things and needing constant vigilance? When the 
baby begins to need her guidance most, the young mother 
usually wants to be off on a life of her own, unhampered 
by the endless drudgery of routine child care. 

Second, if she accepts these obligations, can she fulfill them? 
We will do our best to help her along, since it is a rare young 
woman, indeed, who can handle alone this twofold problem 
or re-establishing herself and properly caring for and support- 
ing a child at the same time. 

In an overwhelming majority of cases such mothers desert 
the child, give it away, or, on the impulse to give the baby a 
name, rush into a hasty marriage that may result in failure. 
The child is knocked about from pillar to post, never know- 
ing its mother, without any security; eventually most of 


these tragic children end up with the State for custody or pos- 
sible adoption. There are, to be sure, many employers who 
would gladly hire a single girl with a baby, but from long 
experience we expect the girl to neglect either the child or 
the employer, or both. 

By far the most promising way to success, as proved 
through the years, is through a domestic placement. This 
placement must be in a suburb or town fit for the girl, where 
her child can board nearby so the mother sees it on her day 
off. This arrangement usually works out pretty well for the 
child, since it receives some systematic care and living per- 
manence. The young mother, however, frequently objects to 
paying ten to fifteen dollars weekly to the boarding mother 
in addition to shopping for all the needs of a growing child. 
In a few months the typical unwed mother, so dramatically 
appealing when she affirmed her "mother love" before the 
Board, is pleading with her agent that she has no time or 
money for herself not even enough to buy clothes. She 
thinks she'd better give up the child. Occasionally, the girl 
will meet a man who will marry her, adopt the child, and set- 
tle down to a happy home, but that is the exception. 

Who are these girls that have been sent away to prison 
pregnant? Why couldn't they be handled in the community? 
Here are the stories of three of them. 

Jane was nineteen years old and lived in a small country 
town, where her family had a good reputation. She had been 
a sex problem for a long time. Her mother complained to 
the juvenile session of the local court several years ago when 
Jane began to be a problem. There was no doubt of her 
promiscuity; two or three men would often follow her and 
hang about her home waiting for her at night. She was fre- 
quently seen getting in cars and onto motorcycles with 
strangers. The judge could not help but find her guilty of 
"stubbornness" on her mother's complaint, and put her in 

The Unwed Mother 103 

the House of the Good Shepherd. There she stayed for a 

After leaving the Good Shepherd, she behaved well for two 
months before reverting to her same old behavior. Fearing 
Jane would influence the younger members of her family, 
the mother made another complaint. This time Jane disap- 
peared before she could be arrested, and two months passed 
before she was found in a shack in the woods near a military 
camp. She was caught then because a soldier reported that 
she had stolen twenty-seven dollars and a wrist watch from 
him. Jane told the police there that she had met a friend of 
the soldier in a cafe and had gone with him to the shack, 
where she had charged him seven dollars for intercourse. She 
said three other soldiers joined her during the evening and 
she had had relations with all three and had received different 
sums of money from each one. All the soldiers admitted 
drinking and spending the night in the shack, but since there 
was no proof of the soldier's charge that she had robbed 
him, Jane was given an adultery sentence. The trial brought 
to light that she had gone through a marriage ceremony some 
ten months before with another soldier; that he was now over- 
seas; and that he showed no interest in her. At the Reform- 
atory she was found to be pregnant, but there was, of course, 
no means of determining who the father of the child might be. 

Then there was the case of Bertha, eighteen years old, who 
was brought up on a farm in the Berkshires. The elderly 
couple that raised her took Bertha when she was four, after 
their own daughter had died. They never knew who Bertha 
was or where their daughter found her, but they were sure she 
was not their own daughter's child. That daughter had been 
married twice, and they believed Bertha to be the child of one 
of these husbands by another woman. 

When she reached her teens, Bertha became an extremely 
promiscuous girl. For three years kindly neighbors had tried 
to help her, and the police had warned her constantly. Her 


pastor arranged for Bertha to go to a private school in Ver- 
mont for a year. When this failed to work out, the minister 
and his wife tried patiently to help teach her good habits dur- 
ing a winter she spent with them in the parsonage, but there 
were always the same discouraging results. Bertha was un- 
reliable, coarse, dirty, belligerent, and a petty thief. She often 
beat young children, and every time she did she left home 
and school for two or three days at a stretch. Once the police 
returned her to the parsonage from a forsaken house where 
she was sexually satisfying a railroad gang who sought shelter 
there during a heavy downpour. Many times she was found 
on the highway anywhere from five to a hundred miles from 
home, where she had been abandoned by truck drivers. Her 
first arrest for fornication came when police in a neighboring 
city arrested her with three men behind a tent at a traveling 
carnival. She was sent to the Reformatory with the hope that 
she might still be trained to accept moral standards and work 
habits. She was found to be three months pregnant, but 
could not name the father of her child. 

A third case was that of Rita, twenty-two years old, the 
daughter of foreign-born parents, who brought her up in one 
of our big industrial cities. She attended a foreign language 
school and spoke that language at home as well. On com- 
plaint of her teacher, Rita's mother was found guilty of 
neglect and she and her sister were placed in foster homes. 
Rita was only eleven then, but she was never able to adjust, 
and moved from one placement to another. Even when she 
was with the most interested relatives or in good domestic 
positions, she was always untrustworthy and dishonest, 
saucily bold, quarrelsome, and generally unmanageable. By 
the time she was seventeen, employers wouldn't keep her be- 
cause of her over-interest in sex, her obvious familiarity with 
male members of the family, and because she would receive 
as many as fifteen to eighteen telephone calls a day from men. 
At twenty, Rita was hospitalized for scabies and gonorrhea. 

The Unwed Mother 105 

She was tested psychologically and found to be a highly in- 
telligent person, but mentally disturbed. She was still with- 
out a court record until her last employer notified police that 
on her day off she brought back a stray sailor who spent the 
night in her room. 

The next report on Rita came from a woman State Police 
officer who investigated a complaint in a rural area that a 
steady stream of people was going in and out of an empty 
chickenhouse. She found a coop with no water or toilet 
facilities, Rita and her six-month-old illegitimate child, her 
married sister Vera and her husband, and their two children. 
Rita, still unmarried, was pregnant again. 

Vera had gone to the city for several days with her older 
child and left Rita to care for the younger and for her own 
baby. Vera's husband admitted he had frequent relations 
with Rita all with his wife's consent. Rita acknowledged 
this, adding that these acts often took place with her sister 
present. She explained that it was a custom with their people 
that a pregnant woman should be denied none of her desires. 
Both Rita and Vera's husband were found guilty of lewd 
and lascivious cohabitation. 

These three cases are not unusual, but they present various 
aspects of a complicated problem. Many things are quite ob- 
vious to any person with common sense. In each case, there 
is no immediate hope of releasing either these women or the 
children to what might be considered a normal home environ- 
ment. They have been so promiscuous that it is impossible to 
attempt an adjudication of the babies' paternity. Often the 
baby turns out to be of a different race and color than the 
mother. Perhaps he is black or yellow (Negro or Chinese), 
while the mother is a white girl or the situation may be 
reversed a colored mother has a white child. 

A woman of this type has never been self-sustaining and 
does not know how to be. She has to be taught and her best 


chance is a long trial under capable supervision with a sym- 
pathetic employer. Sometimes, after such a trial, a girl goes 
off parole neatly dressed, with money in the bank. She may 
have become a good housekeeper, trained to cook, buy, and 
manage a household, and her training in the right environ- 
ment has helped her become a happy, beneficial member of 
society, with devoted friends. Best of all, she has attained 
a decent standard of living. 

It is foolish and a mistake to believe that all women of- 
fenders can blame their plight on their environment. The 
three examples I have given may appear to some people to 
be due to that factor, and the argument that "she never had 
a chance" is a superficially moving one. But in a great many 
cases of just this type we find other family members, from 
the same questionable environment, rising above it and doing 
well in the community. 

Another common misconception is: "Why blame a person 
for one mistake? Don't we all make them she's just weak." 

The "weak" part of this excuse is right. The exceptional 
case is the one making only one mistake! Madame De Luzy 
once said, "One crime is everything two nothing," and I 
might add, "three habit." 

This seems to be particularly true of the cases of moral 
neglect. Many people seem to overlook the damage that is 
done to a child or children in a home where either or both 
parents are grossly immoral or in the homes where the mother 
has never married and has led an extremely promiscuous life 
right in front of her children. 

All children need the influence of normal family life in the 
day-to-day routine of balanced parental judgment and dis- 
cipline. They need to be taught moral standards by example 
and not by theory. As I see it, after talking with hundreds 
and hundreds of children who have been the innocent victims 
of such situations, the most important aspect of moral neglect 
is the ridicule and scorn thrown up at these poor children 

The Unwed Mother 107 

by their classmates from the very first day they start to 
school. This is true the country over, whether the children 
are from the wealthy set in Hollywood or simple rustics from 
a village high in the hills. Surely these unlucky, unwanted 
babies born with two strikes against them are not and should 
not be connected with crime. 

In the last few years we have had four women with thirty- 
six illegitimate children under our department's supervision: 
two of these women had eight children each, another had nine 
and still another had eleven. I just cannot understand it! 
How were these families supported? If not by public funds, 
how? Why was there such low morality in the community 
that this prostitution was never brought to the attention of 
the proper officials in time to control it? These women and 
their families were not of any particular race or section. One 
was from a large thriving city, another from a progressive 
town, and the other two from upcountry, which illustrates 
that slack morality is not confined to special types of com- 

Alva had given birth to nine illegitimate children when she 
came before us during her first commitment to the Reforma- 
tory. She was a sweet, pretty girl, whose verified age of 
twenty-eight was unbelievable to all of us, she seemed so 
young. The appeal of her gentle smile and winsome ways 
was heightened by a noticeable limp from an early attack of 
infantile paralysis. Alva was of average intelligence, could 
master industrial skills, and was on good terms with her 
mother, who never blamed Alva, but only the company she 

Alva's first son was a bright boy, then twelve, who was 
living with his maternal grandmother. The next was Elvira, 
who had been adopted by a neighbor. Twin boys followed, 
and since their father, a married man, was childless, he and 
his wife gladly took them home to raise as their own. A 


wealthy Englishman, whose yacht anchored for the summer 
in the harbor, was responsible for Alva's next. He made 
a $500 settlement and paid for Alva's confinement. This child 
also was given in adoption. Between and many times during 
these pregnancies, Alva worked diligently in the knitting mill 
at excellent wages and lived with her devoted mother or 
married sister most of the time. 

Later Alva went to live with a man who was estranged 
from his wife, and from this union, four more children were 
born out of wedlock. This man and Alva, when she was 
able to work at the mill, supported the household as best 
they could. He always promised faithfully to divorce his 
wife and marry her, and undoubtedly he intended to do so. 
But he was killed in an automobile accident, and his sudden 
death left Alva with no recourse but to apply for welfare aid. 

When the welfare agent sought the children's birth cer- 
tificates, she discovered the truth. Welfare supported the 
family for only a short time because the agent suspected and 
proved that Alva was pregnant again. This time charges of 
fornication were brought against both the man and Alva. She 
was sent to the Reformatory on a two-year indefinite sen- 
tence, and he was put on probation and ordered to go to work 
to support the new child. The four children Alva had been 
caring for were adjudged neglected and put under supervision 
of the Division of Child Guardianship. The evidence showed 
that Alva had been a conscientious mother in providing ade- 
quately for the physical needs of her children, but she had 
certainly failed from the point of view of moral standards. 
Had there been physical neglect, Alva's plight would have 
been brought to official attention years before. 

Alva's tenth, born in the Union Hospital during her 
Reformatory sentence, was a healthy baby girl. We first saw 
Alva when she had served almost a year of her sentence and 
when her new baby was six months old. There were no unex- 
plainable factors in her case history. At the interview we were 

The Unwed Mother 109 

all convinced that her family situation did not disturb Alva, 
morally or otherwise, although she did realize that her be- 
havior had not been acceptable. She was so sincere in prom- 
ising us that she would bear no more children out of wedlock 
that not one single member of the Board demurred in voting 
her parole. The Board knew Alva to be a dependable mother 
and a good worker, both sane and sober. Certainly, as a 
responsible offender, she deserved a trial in the community, 
especially since long institutionalization often has a disillu- 
sioning and damaging effect on a person like her. 

The parole agent went to work on a plan for Alva. She 
wanted ultimately to organize a morally decent, comfortable 
home where Alva could keep all five of her youngsters, but 
the first step was to establish her safely with the new baby. 
When the mother appeared eager to have Alva home again 
and happy to care for the infant while Alva worked, we felt 
justified in approving such an arrangement. 

On her first visit the agent took Alva to the courthouse to 
register her complaint against the man who had been her co- 
defendant in the charge of fornication. The probation officer 
called him into court, where he admitted that he was the 
father of the baby and was ordered to pay seven dollars a 
week toward her support. Since he came to court voluntarily 
and was so sensibly co-operative, the judge put the case on file. 
He further allowed this man to visit Alva and his baby every 
other Sunday, but he was never to be alone with Alva. All 
went smoothly from the beginning. 

An agent is always pleased to have a woman with Alva's 
basic qualities and a substantial family household to work 
with. She is quick to sense when the family doesn't care, or 
when it will encourage the girl in further wrongdoings by 
covering up for her. She also knows by experience when the 
family will help a woman, and that gives her a real head start. 
Alva's parents couldn't have been more helpful, or more de- 
lighted with Alva's progress. 


One hot summer day, Alva appeared at our office in the 
State House. She was trim and freshly pretty in her bright 
blue dress, which matched her sparkling eyes, and she was so 
excited that she couldn't wait a week for her agent's next 
visit! She and Pete, her co-defendant, had decided to get 
married on his next Sunday visit. She was so afraid we might 
not approve. Approve? Why all the Board fairly tumbled 
over one another in their haste to sign the permission blank. 

Their marriage took place as scheduled and did away with 
the problem of Alva's morality. The agent's supervision for 
the remaining months was simple routine. Pete was a deep- 
sea fisherman, and the excellent wages he brought home from 
his trips to the Grand Banks supported his new family com- 
fortably. The agent helped Alva locate, furnish, and settle 
down in a conveniently comfortable home of her own, and 
helped her budget for her family which, after the Division 
of Child Guardianship allowed her to have her other four 
small children back, made seven in all. 

The next Easter, the case of Alva was moved from the ac- 
tive file to the inactive one, marked with the following suc- 
cinct and satisfying statement: April 23, Supervision con- 
cluded. Successful parole. Case closed. 


The Doll Racket 

A PRISON SYSTEM is valueless when it returns its charges to 
society more corrupt than when it took them, yet this is one 
of the grave hazards of our prison system today. In many of 
our prisons the young girls are corrupted by the recidivists 
and by those hardened offenders who have become sexual per- 
verts. This is one of the primary reasons for never exposing 
first offenders to the contamination of chronic criminals. 

From my own personal observation the crimes committed 
recently by women offenders are of a much more serious 
nature and gravity than heretofore and the number of con- 
firmed female homosexuals has increased to a marked degree 

Many young girls become involved in perversion in an in- 
stitution just as they had started using drugs on the outside 
they do it to be smart and to see what it is like. Others who 
are lonely and entirely unsuspecting in the beginning become 
seriously entangled emotionally before they realize it. Yet 
the number of physically abnormal women inmates, accord- 
ing to our medical records, is negligible. 

Some of the girls who have experimented with homosexual- 
ity in an institution return to normal living practices as soon 
as they are released; others never do. To me, the most tragic 
inmates are the ones who lived normal lives before being 
sent to prison and who after "doing time" have not the slight- 
est interest in leading natural lives again. 

A normal girl can become addicted to homosexuality very 
quickly, and her appearance and behavior soon show what 
has happened. One of our agents came in to the office quite 


disheartened by the fact that Mary, one of her youngest 
clients, had disappeared. Shortly afterwards the State Police 
notified our office that they found Mary in a hospital after 
an automobile accident in which she suffered a broken leg. 

When the agent went to the hospital, she found Mary in- 
capacitated from the leg injury but not seriously hurt. At 
first parole visits were a simple matter because there was not 
much that Mary could do while she was in the hospital, but 
in short order we received word that Mary had walked out 
of the hospital with an extremely heavy cast on her leg and 
had completely disappeared. 

It did not take her agent very long to locate her, for there 
could be very few places where a friendless young girl with 
no means of income, completely handicapped by a plaster cast 
could have gone. A check with all her family members re- 
vealed that they were completely unaware that she had left 
the hospital. So the only place to look was to check with the 
State Police for the companions who were with her in the 
accident. Mary's family had never heard of the two women 
companions and had no knowledge of where Mary had made 
their acquaintance. After locating their address, rather than 
send the police to look for her client the agent decided to go 
there herself first to see if she could find Mary and also to ap- 
praise the domestic situation. 

The door of the small city apartment was opened by a 
large colored woman, who gruffly asked the agent what she 
wanted. When the agent told her she was there to see Mary, 
the woman snarled that she had the wrong house and that 
she had never heard of her. But the agent had already seen 
Mary through the jamb of the door, lying on a daybed in the 
room inside, so she ignored the woman who was trying to 
block her way and went straight to Mary, who obviously 
would have moved if she could. 

Mary was in a sullen mood and would only answer her 
agent in monosyllables. She did not introduce the woman 

The Doll Racket 113 

who had opened the door or another tall, rangy colored girl, 
dressed in blue jeans and a dirty T shirt, who kept walking 
into the room and glowering at the agent. At a glance the 
agent saw it was useless to try to learn anything while Mary 
was under the protection and influence of these women. Yet 
this household was certainly no place for Mary to live in, so 
the agent asked her to collect her possessions and drive back 
with her to her brother's home. At first Mary protested that 
she was too sick, that her leg was swollen and painful and 
that she was not going; to which the agent replied that she 
would give her just five minutes to be at the door. The agent 
walked to the door and stood there quietly waiting, surprised 
to notice that no one in the group said a word either to her 
or to one another, and that neither of the women made a move 
to help Mary, who was noticeably in great pain as she tried 
to move. Finally the agent herself gathered the handful of 
possessions that Mary pointed out to her. While she was 
doing this she had a chance to look over the apartment. It 
consisted of two rooms, the one with the pull-out daybed was 
used as a living room, bedroom, and kitchen, and the other 
had a double bed and cot in it, where two small children, one 
white and one colored, were taking their naps. That was all 
the furniture there was. The toilet facilities, shared with the 
tenants of another apartment, were located at the top of a 
flight of stairs out in the common hall. 

Mary gave no explanation to her friends as to who her 
agent was or why or where she was going with her; neither 
did she thank her hostesses or say good-by when she finally 
got on her feet and hobbled to the door. Since they in turn 
offered no resistance, the agent realized they knew she was 
a special police officer who would carry through her plan no 
matter what they said. 

After Mary was in the car, she admitted to the agent that 
she had left the hospital against the doctor's orders and had 
herself taken the cast off her leg. Now she was in consider- 


able pain and was really grateful that the agent had come for 
her. As Mary came from a respectable, intelligent family, the 
agent decided to take her home and ask the family what 
medical plans they wished to make for her. 

During the hundred-and-twenty-five-mile ride home, Mary 
voluntarily brought up the topic of homosexuality, or "the 
doll racket/' as it is called in the prison world. She told her 
agent she never knew anything about it before she went to 
prison but that now she was quite in love with the whole 
business and wanted to have nothing to do with men. She 
asked the agent quite frankly if she had noticed the recent 
change in her appearance, her new boyish haircut and the 
fact that she used no make-up of any sort and wore only boys' 
clothes. She said she knew her family were shocked about it 
all in an old-fashioned way, and so until the next spring, when 
she would be twenty-one, she could not do as she pleased all 
the time. But she would take every chance she could get now, 
and when she was of age and was off parole too, she would 
leave home and go to live permanently in one of the big cities 
in America, where Lesbians flourish. 

With no encouragement from her agent, she told about 
being approached three days after she went into an institution 
by a girl named Dorothy who wrote her a twelve-page letter 
that initiated her into this new world. She went on to tell, 
however, that she did not remain permanently attached to 
Dorothy, but shifted to Martina, to whom she was still de- 
voted. When Martina was released Mary temporarily shifted 
to Nancy (a notorious homosexual who was still an inmate 
and whose activities were well known to this agent). Mary 
went on to speak of the days since her release, the days when 
she supposedly had been looking for work. Actually she had 
been searching for her friends. In her wanderings she would 
hitchhike over most of the state, yet, somehow, for the first 
month she got home every night. Although very eager to 
talk about certain aspects of this new life to which she felt 

The Doll Racket 115 

so attracted, Mary was extremely wary about giving her agent 
any information about the two women she had been found 
living with and who were the women with whom she was 
riding when she had broken her leg in the automobile acci- 
dent. She even declined to answer a direct question as to 
what their names were and kept on insisting that she did not 
know. Neither would she tell where she originally met these 
women. Her only interest was her overpowering love for 
Martina, whom she claimed she had not been able to find since 
her release, and the thoughts of the joys of the life together 
that they had planned. 

When the agent left Mary at her brother's, she noticed that 
the sister-in-law was reluctant to keep Mary again. At the 
agent's request she agreed to house her for the night, and the 
agent gave her five dollars to call their family doctor to treat 
Mary's leg right away. Mary went back to the hospital for 
many more weeks, and when she did return to the commu- 
nity, she did an extremely poor parole. She would work some- 
times but never steadily, and months later the local police- 
woman told us that Mary had left town, just as she had prom- 
ised she would. I am sure she has found her Martina or an 
equivalent by now. 

No age or race is immune to the temptations of homosexual- 
ity in prisons, but the girls who succumb share the character- 
istics of being extremely lazy also a characteristic of all 
women who enter any form of prostitution. Most homo- 
sexuals seem to pair off and seclude themselves at every pos- 
sible opportunity. They express their devotion in love letters, 
poetry, and presents, and spend hungry days and sleepless 
nights haunted by jealousy, fear, and fantasy. Should another 
woman attempt to interfere and demand the attention of the 
"wife," vicious hand-to-hand fights or even free-for-alls re- 
sult. If death or other circumstances severs a pair, the sur- 
vivor may suffer an acute attack of homosexual panic, with 


violent screaming and frothing at the mouth, followed by a 
period of wan anxiety. But soon she takes on another partner 
to replace her lost love. Many a girl has come to our office 
and asked to be sent back to an institution where her partner 
was. Others have committed new offenses, apparently de- 
liberately, to achieve the same result. 

The female homosexual as such rarely comes in contact 
with law, although there have been a few recent arrests for 
"open and gross lewdness," "contributing to the delinquency 
of a minor," or "sodomy"; more often their offenses are 
armed robbery, shoplifting, or larceny. Many of the older 
ones take part in drug traffic and are picked up for various 
violations of the narcotic laws. A true or confirmed homo- 
sexual would be an extremely poor parole candidate and I do 
not recall ever releasing such a woman, but they all return 
to the community at the end of their sentences. Once free 
they pursue girls they have known, many of whom are still 
on parole. We have a perpetual problem protecting young 
offenders from becoming infatuated, degraded, and finally 
destroyed by them. 

When a girl suddenly abandons her eager, stable efforts to 
re-establish herself and begins to evade questions, look wan 
and weary, and stay away from work, an agent quickly 
recognizes that some unwholesome outside influence is causing 
the change. The first complaint comes from the girl's em- 
ployer or from her mother, or both. The reports to the agent 
run about the same: 

EMPLOYER: Brenda hasn't been doing so well lately. 

AGENT: Is she sick? 

EMPLOYER: Doesn't seem to be. I've never seen her this way. 

She's restless and seems to be afraid of something. 
AGENT: What do you mean? 

EMPLOYER: I don't exactly know. She's been getting three or 

four phone calls a day from some woman. There 

The Doll Racket 


are three toll calls on my new phone bill that Brenda 
must have made last week. I spoke to her about it, 
and she denied it, but I can't keep on paying her 
and her phone bills too. I might as well tell you the 
whole story. She begged me not to, and she's been 
so wonderful for three months that I haven't. But 
last Thursday, she was out all night and didn't get 
back till late Friday. She was so tired I had to send 
her to bed. She hasn't been to see her baby for two 
weeks, either, nor has she paid its board. 

AGENT: Did you get the name of the girl who is phoning 


EMPLOYER: No, but each time I answered the voice was the 

AGENT: Are you still willing to keep her if the Board feels 

a warning is sufficient? 

EMPLOYER: Yes I am, as long as she'll settle down and if that 
woman will stop phoning her. You'll think I'm ex- 
aggerating, but sometimes they talk for an hour 
three times a day! 

AGENT: Not at all, it sounds quite possible to me! After I 

talk with Brenda, I'll discuss her case with the Board 
and probably recommend that they give her a 
severe reprimand and, if necessary, final warning. 

The agent talked with Brenda alone and found her most 
artfully evasive. She admitted being away overnight but was 
clearly lying when she claimed she was with a cousin in 
Worcester and missed the bus. Rather than create an 
issue without enough evidence, the agent appeared to accept 
Brenda's story and told her the next time she stayed out over- 
night she would be brought before the Board. Caution and 
tact are required in handling a case like this. To infer an 
entanglement when it didn't exist would be dangerously un- 
just. But the three long distance calls showed that Brenda was 
actively co-operating with the person who called her. This 


kind of a situation never stands still but progresses as fast as a 
forest fire. Before the agent left the household, she asked the 
employer to come to an understanding with Brenda about 
limiting her use of the phone and to notify the Board immedi- 
ately if Brenda stayed away again overnight. With no dis- 
cussion or hesitation, the agent told Brenda to pay two weeks' 
back board for her baby, at once. 

All went well for about a week, but then Brenda began 
getting three or four heavily perfumed letters in the mail every 
day, all obviously from the same person. She seemed more 
tense and tired than the amount of work she was doing could 
make her. The lights in her room blazed away until the wee 
hours of the morning. On Thursday, her next day off, she 
drove away in a brand-new car with an older woman at the 
wheel. That night Brenda returned at about eleven o'clock, 
which was the time set by the agent and employer. During 
the night the employer and her husband thought they heard 
sounds coming from Brenda's room, and ignored them after 
agreeing she probably was overtired and talking in her sleep. 
When Brenda didn't get up to prepare breakfast, the employer 
went to her room. As she opened the door a disheveled and 
coarse woman of about thirty-five brushed past her, stepped 
briskly out the door, and drove off in the brand-new car that 
had been hidden all night in the driveway behind some shrub- 
bery. Brenda remained absolutely mute in the face of her 
employer's questions and made no comment when the em- 
ployer finally gave her notice to leave and threatened to tell 
the agent that she would have to go without references. The 
employer reported Brenda's dismissal by telephone to the 
parole office, and the parole supervisor relayed it to Brenda's 
agent at the earliest possible moment. The supervisor also 
talked to Brenda by telephone, telling her to collect her 
belongings so that the agent could call for her and try to iron 
out her difficulties with her. 

This was the effective way to manage this situation, for 

The Doll Racket 119 

unless the interview before the supervisor and the women 
Parole Board members brought something concrete to light 
we could only conjecture about the relationship between 
Brenda and the older woman. 

Many a young girl can and has been saved from a life of 
degrading sorrow, but it is not an easy task, for progress is 
slow. We have to win her confidence and encourage her self- 
reliance. Sometimes frank reasoning is enough to convince 
her, and when this happens she can straighten out very quickly 
and progress most satisfactorily. It can only happen, however, 
if the girl is really willing to do her part. Nothing can be 
superimposed from without unless the desire comes from 
within. When the parolee develops that desire, we help her 
reform by devising an entirely new arrangement with different 
safeguards for her. When she actually wants to break all ties 
with her former associates, another work placement in a new 
environment, with normal recreation and social life, will start 
her on the road to self-reliant success. Many times we have 
seen a girl slip dangerously at the start in her release period 
and have had the satisfaction of seeing her recover strength 
and courage as she progressed. Those girls almost always 
marry and settle down normally and, we hope, permanently. 

Alas, at this stage it just didn't seem to be in the cards for 
Brenda. When the agent arrived to pick her up, she found 
that Brenda had already gone off with the other woman, 
leaving all her clothes, radio, and various possessions behind 
her. There had been no word from Brenda since, so the agent 
and employer packed her possessions, which included one 
hundred and three letters written on sweetly scented note- 
paper, which the agent brought to the office for information. 
These, substantiated by the employer's accurate description 
of the woman recently dominating Brenda's life, established 
her identity as "Butch" MacDonald, a notorious homosexual. 
The letters revealed that misguided young Brenda was trag- 
ically involved, not only with battered Butch but with at 


least four other very aggressive women from different parts 
of the state. We asked the employer to hold any of Brenda's 
future mail because the postmarks and return address on the 
envelopes might give us a clue to the whereabouts of Butch. 
Additionally, since we were positive Brenda and Butch were 
together, we issued a warrant to the police to arrest Brenda 
on grounds of "absconding." 

Both the statute and the Board rules give us the power to 
issue such a warrant, because the Parole Board must know the 
whereabouts of its charges at all times. It is discretionary with 
the Board whether the girl should remain outside on parole 
or should return to an institution. 

It was an enigma how and where Butch and Brenda ever 
met. They came from widely different parts of the state and 
had never been in prison together. Brenda, twenty-two years 
old, was on parole, serving her first sentence for idle and dis- 
orderly conduct. Butch had served three Reformatory and 
six jail terms and one voluntary commitment for relief from 
drug addiction, but she had been entirely free of supervision 
during Brenda's parole. 

We heard nothing new of Brenda for ten days. Her mail 
had dropped off because she had either broken with these 
women or was with them now. The Registry of Motor 
Vehicles was helpful in tracing the license number of the 
car in which the parolee disappeared. It turned out to be 
rented from a "drive-yourself" agency, but we could trace 
it no farther until, out of the blue, the Federal Narcotics 
Division picked up Butch as a pusher of heroin. The following 
night Brenda, filthy and forlorn, was picked up on a drunk- 
enness charge in a big city. 

The probation officer telephoned our office in the morning 
just before the court session and asked whether we still wanted 
her on our warrant. She was not a chronic drunkard, the pro- 
bation officer felt, and had not been drunk enough this time 
to deserve a new sentence. We agreed with the officer and 
thought that if the judge was satisfied Brenda would be better 

The Doll Racket 121 

off returned to us for another opportunity in the community 
than she would be serving another sentence. We asked the 
officer to tell Brenda to return to our office voluntarily and 
sent her agent off to give her a ride back. When she appeared 
she was contrite and exhausted but quietly resistant. We tried 
to draw her out, reminding her of her contact with Butch 
two weeks ago and of her unexplained disappearance; of how 
relieved we were to have finally located her, even though she 
was trying to drown her grief at Butch's arrest. We told her 
she had done so well on parole at first that we were sure she 
could again. Her agent faced her with one fact after another 
until Brenda realized we knew more than enough about her 
situation and only wanted to help her. She relaxed and con- 
fided most of what we had not known. We presented her 
with six of her unopened, newly received letters and instructed 
her to read them aloud to us. Here is a typical letter: 

My darling Brenda, 

I disliked leaving you last night, sweet but this is the way 
it has to be for a while. Perhaps soon we can be together, forever, 
forever, my love, my sweet. 

Our one weekend, darling, in Vermont cost us surprisingly 
little. Only $9 for the car. So I put $11 of your money into the 
bank for you. I shall not need it now and it gives me joy, honey, 
to think of you saving for our future together forever. 

I love you dearly, sweet, and I want nothing to separate us ever 
again. Imagination plays strange tricks, doesn't it, sweet, but 
when I lay and toss in my bed, and look at the moonlight on the 
wall, and you are not next to me, I know our sacrifices now are 
worth so much, for I want you happy always. Nothing will 
ever separate us again. 

I love you, darling. Will sign off now. 

XXXXXX Your loving wife E 

P.S. As per your directions, I know you'll be pleased to hear I 
have my hair cut very short and I wear my T shirt and 
slacks all the time. 



By the time she finished reading the letter, Brenda was 
transformed into a thoroughly contrite girl overcome with 
remorse. From these letters and from her own statements we 
now had proof that she had committed many new parole 

1. Leaving the state without permission. 

2. Associating with a known criminal. 

3. Driving a car without a license or permission. 

She begged for another chance. Her two-and-a-half -year- 
old baby couldn't go back to the institution with her because 
he was now too old to be admitted. She reiterated her love 
for the baby and spoke of the devoted care she had given him, 
not only at the institution but during her first two months on 
parole. This we knew to be true from our running records 
and from the statements her agent had made at the time, and 
it was the factor on which we hoped to build a new life for 
Brenda. We had to realize too that Butch was probably serv- 
ing a new sentence and would be a menace in any institution, 
especially to the weak and wavering Brenda. 

The Board voted to withdraw its warrant, and to initiate a 
new plan for Brenda in a new community. She spent that 
night at a social agency where she was treated to a hot bath, 
a hearty supper, and two aspirins at bedtime, which all resulted 
in giving her a long, sound sleep. Her agent had brought her 
luggage to her there, and Brenda was at our office by nine the 
next morning, dressed in her attractive clothes, looking like 
a new girl, physically refreshed and mentally relieved, as pretty 
as a young debutante. She sat down eagerly with her agent, 
and together they worked out her plan. 

Could she return to her native town in the western part of 
the state with her baby? They could board with her cousin, 
who would care for the baby while Brenda worked in the 
tobacco fields during the spring and summer, and in a factory 
during the winter. Could she! After many telephone calls, 
the details were completed, and Brenda and the baby drove to 

The Doll Racket 123 

the Berkshires with her agent that same afternoon. Before 
dusk, she and her child were secure under a comfortable roof 
with a practical, good-natured cousin who promised the agent 
there would be absolutely no liquor and no calls, letters, or 
visits from any undesirables. 

Five months have elapsed and Brenda is still doing excel- 
lently. She and her young man (just back from Korea) came 
to Boston only last week to seek the Parole Board's permission 
to marry. The young man was very earnest in his intentions 
to marry Brenda and was willing to adopt her baby because 
he loves them both very much. 

The Parole Board is not omniscient, and we cannot forecast 
or foresee how any marriage is going to work out, but we can 
see that Brenda has made such a fine adjustment in the five 
months she has lived with her cousin there is good reason to 
believe that she will not return to her abnormal way of life, 
and that their marriage should be a success. 

John Bartlow Martin states in his book Break Doivn the 
Walls that he believes homosexuality is even more common 
in women's prisons than in the male institutions. He goes on 
to say, "One woman ex-convict said that virtually every 
woman has engaged in homosexual practices there." 

I do not agree entirely with that one inmate's statement, but 
I do believe the practice is widespread and an extremely 
serious moral and administrative problem. I have to believe 
from the information given to both the Board members and 
our agents that every female inmate has been approached or 
exposed to such advances while serving time. However, I am 
equally sure that I have known a large number of women 
prisoners who have been strong enough to avoid becoming 
involved in any form of perversion. 


Con Women 

WHILE IT is generally impossible to group women offenders 
into classes or types, there are some characteristics that appear 
common to persons who commit certain offenses at least to 
those who get caught. 

We know from our own experience and from figures from 
other states that more forgers and larcenists are recidivists 
than any other offenders. No one knows much about the 
background and roots of such behavior, and therefore there 
is little anyone can do to cure it. What we do know is that 
forgers and larcenists are likely to become a prime risk to 
society if or when they are released. 

As a group they are almost always attractive and have 
warm, convincing personalities. They have usually passed 
their middle thirties by the time they serve their first com- 
mitment to prison, and they are nearly always highly intelli- 
gent. Their training and adaptability make them excellent 
inmates who can be assigned to some form of clerical or 
administrative work. They are rarely diseased or alcoholic, 
and they usually settle into a quiet routine "inside." 

I cannot help feeling, whenever I meet a forger for the first 
time at a Board meeting and become familiar with her history 
and record, that she probably has committed a thousand lar- 
cenies no one ever suspects. The serene poise with which they 
float into the Board is really a handicap to them. An outsider 
would be baffled if he saw a woman of statuesque beauty and 
warm personality turned down by the Board, especially if he 
had listened to her excellent sales talk and her protestations 
about living a new life. If the woman is a first offender the 

Con Women 125 

Board will undoubtedly release her, but if she has a record as 
long as my arm, no one on the Board would be unrealistic 
enough to vote to consider her release. Such women are the 
best promisers in the world, but lying is their art and their 
livelihood. Because of their physical attributes and pleasing 
personalities, they have been able to talk themselves out of so 
many tangles that it is second nature to them to think of a 
parole hearing as just one more tight corner to squirm out of. 
The record usually shows continued brushes with the law 
over a ten- to fifteen-year period. "Case filed, restitution 
made" "Case dismissed, failure to prosecute," etc.; in other 
words, the witnesses may have quit, or the victim may have 
been blackmailed into backing out, or any one of half a hun- 
dred factors may have entered the picture. No one ever 
knows what happened, because, when a case is not prosecuted, 
no record is kept. No one but the "con woman" herself, and 
she never talks. 

Most of these confidence women have one more character- 
istic in common. They are almost nomadic, always on the 
move from state to state and city to city. Sometimes they do 
not even sleep a night in a town they hit; just a little forgery, 
maybe a small check, cashed at a fruit store for $14.90, of 
which $2 pays for the fruit bought as a blind and $12.90 goes 
to the forger. A week later the check comes back "No Bank" 
to the fruit man in Hartford, Connecticut, and Minnie Filch 
is now victimizing men in North Dakota but don't think 
she got there on the $12.90. She's probably written sixty-five 
little checks and strewn them like the debris from a tornado 
all over the landscape as she travelled zigzag across the 

Each has her own system and her own code. Some have an 
accomplice and others travel in a group of three. (Many of 
us who work in parole departments throughout the country 
believe that people in the confidence game are all members of 
a large operation working from a central control and training 

unit. At present there is not enough evidence to prove this 
theory, but the amazing similarity of the individual operations 
lends validity to the supposition. Until there is proof that 
money is being taken from one state to another, the F.B.I. 
cannot be brought into the investigations.) Some appear to 
work entirely alone; but even though they will vigorously 
protest any inference of an accomplice, I never believe them. 
The picture is never quite complete without a partner. 

The police arrested a most attractive young woman named 
Elmira for attempted larceny in Boston. She was charged 
with the crime and subsequently found guilty. The police 
did excellent work on the case, yet could never locate a con- 
tact or accomplice of any sort. In the year that passed while 
she was in prison, before the Parole Board saw her, not one 
scrap of information concerning an accomplice came to light. 

As the institution searched the records through the Depart- 
ment of Public Safety files, an enormous amount of informa- 
tion was accumulated about Elmira's activities in twenty-one 
other states and about her connections with at least fifty other 
people. Once caught, she would not talk on the topic. She 
was charming, most co-operative on any other subject in the 
world, but she denied even understanding what we meant 
when we tried to discover her associates. The Board gave her 
a six-month setback and explained to her that we would see 
her again even sooner if she would explain where she came 
from, how she happened to hit this particular city, where her 
clothes were, and who her contacts were. 

It just didn't make sense. Elmira, the official F.B.I, record 
showed, was the only child of a Negro mother and an Indian 
father. She was thirty-eight years old and had been born in 
a small town outside Oklahoma City, where she had attended 
a rural school until the age of twelve. Her mother had ideal- 
ized the girl and brought her up with much more refinement 
and many more privileges than other children in that area had 

Con Women 127 

been able to have. To accomplish this, her mother journeyed 
to town and stayed overnight three times a week to labor on 
her hands and knees scrubbing marble floors in the lobby of 
the largest hotel in the city. Many times the mother walked 
the eleven miles to town on hot summer or dreary winter 
nights. It made no difference to her. She kept the job for 
thirty-two years and, sick or well, she would get there. She 
knew that if she missed a day, some younger woman might 
get the job. 

The money the mother made in town provided a living for 
Elmira and herself. The husband was "no account" and just 
didn't work more than an occasional day here and there. The 
mother scraped and saved and bought material in town to 
make attractive clothes for Elmira, which she made by hand 
with exquisite care. 

Elmira developed into a handsome young woman of whom 
her mother was justly proud, and the wife of the hotel 
manager talked about giving Elmira work when she was old 
enough. As the years went on, the mother felt her drudgery 
had not been in vain, but the depression ended all her rosy 
dreams. Even though the hotel did not actually go out of 
business, it did fail and was reorganized with new personnel. 
The mother never lost a week's work, but no job materialized 
for her beautiful Elmira. Finally, in desperation, the mother 
wrote a cousin in New Orleans and asked if she could find 
employment there for Elmira. The cousin answered that she 
could, and Elmira's mother, for the first time in her life, took 
a vacation (three days) to go as far as Little Rock, Arkansas, 
and see her daughter on her way. 

Elmira reached New Orleans all right, but she had met a 
man on the train who was to change the course of her life. He 
was an older man, who told her he was a porter on the railroad 
and did a great deal of traveling. The traveling part was 
correct the "porter" highly inaccurate. 

Elmira went to work at the home where her mother's cousin 


had found her a job. On her day off, she visited the cousin 
and was introduced to respectable young friends and neigh- 
bors. Her friend the "traveling porter" came to see her on his 
infrequent visits to New Orleans but always visited her at the 
home of her employer. 

After a short time, he persuaded her to ask for more time 
off to spend with him, first in exciting night spots in the city, 
and then on short trips. He showed her gaiety and activity 
that she had never known existed. No matter what city they 
went to, he always had friends, busy friends, well-to-do 
friends, gay friends. After a few months, Elmira was not 
working at all, and she visited her cousin only every other 
week. Finally, she told her cousin that she was going back 
to Oklahoma. Instead she disappeared with the porter. 

For seven years, Elmira and her man rode railroads all over 
the country. He, or his contacts, would size up a situation 
that looked promising and then would follow the quarry until 
they could make a strike. Sometimes Elmira would actually 
take part in the robbery; sometimes things would get too hot 
for her man, and she would find herself alone on a night train. 
It might be months until they dared get in touch with each 
other but back together they always came. 

Elmira became the more proficient of the pair at the badger 
game flim flam and pigeon dropping. Most of those seven 
years they lived high, wore fine clothes, stayed in the best 
hotels and rode parlor cars when in the North. Every once 
in a while, Elmira would go back to Oklahoma and visit her 
mother for a week or ten days, bringing her a few presents 
and money she had saved for her. Other times, either Elmira 
or the porter would get arrested. Sometimes they would be 
fined, and others they were ordered to leave town. Twice she 
got thirty-day jail sentences and, finally, in an Ohio city, she 
received a two-year sentence. 

When she had completed her time there, she set out to 
locate her "porter," only to find he had actually married 

Con Women 129 

another woman. In Los Angeles, she finally caught up with 
them, and the two women battled it out. Elmira drew a 
straight-edged razor and seemed to be getting the best of her 
rival, when one of the by-standers passed an ice pick to the 
wife, who drove it deep into Elmira's forearm. There is no 
official record of any arrests for a year after that episode until 
she was caught in Texas, where, while she was out on bail, 
she decided to forfeit her money and leave the state rather 
than risk standing trial. Later, after an arrest and conviction 
in Philadelphia, Elmira was refused parole and served her 
entire sentence. 

Sometime after that, on a clear fall morning, an elderly 
woman was walking up the street in the heart of Boston's 
business district, when a rather tired-looking, middle-aged, 
shabbily dressed woman stopped her and asked her if she had 
seen anyone pick up a pocketbook. The elderly woman said 
no, and as she talked to this poor woman she felt sorry for 
her. She told the woman she had no money with her but 
mentioned her savings account. While they were talking, a 
fine-looking young Negro woman came along walking briskly. 
She was dressed in a Scotch plaid skirt, hand-knit sweater, 
camel-hair coat and well-polished calf loafers. She looked for 
all the world as any young matron might look while out to do 
her morning errands. It was Elmira. She walked briskly past 
the pair of conversing ladies, then, hesitating, she turned back 
and asked if they were in trouble. The poorly dressed one 
told her story and Elmira opened her purse and displayed the 
fact she had only a dollar and a half, and she needed that for 
the important errand she was on. At this point, the story 
became a little vague. Someone suggested this and someone 
else suggested that, before concluding that "to show her good 
faith" the elderly lady was to go home, get her bank book, 
draw $6000 of her life's savings from the bank, and meet the 
shabby woman on the bridge in an hour. It was agreed that 
by a series of miracles her $6000 would be doubled. 


An hour later, with the money in her pocketbook, the 
elderly lady was slowly walking toward the bridge. The 
shabby one was nowhere in sight, and Elmira was the only 
person to be seen anywhere. She walked energetically across 
the bridge, just as the twelve o'clock whistle at the mill gave 
its accustomed blast and 1500 workers poured into the street. 
In the confusion that followed, Elmira moved so swiftly 
through the crowd that two plainclothes officers (one male 
and one female) felt it wiser to grab her before she reached 
her mark than to have the robbery actually take place, with 
the chances of losing both Elmira and the $6000 in the crowd. 
Fortunately the elderly one, with characteristic Yankee 
shrewdness, had begun to feel suspicious and had telephoned 
the police from her own house. They had given her explicit 
directions to go through with the deal and had assured her 
that they would be there to protect her. 

At headquarters, Elmira was searched and found to have 
only the $1.50 she had previously shown. She claimed she had 
come alone to Massachusetts by bus that morning. In court, 
to the surprise of the police, she pleaded guilty, and the judge 
gave her a two-year sentence to the Reformatory. The shabby 
one was never located. 

While serving her sentence, Elmira received no mail. She 
declined to give the names or addresses of any friends or rela- 
tives except her good mother, whom she beseeched the insti- 
tution not to contact. In spite of her meticulous grooming, 
she declined to say where her personal possessions could be 
located. She had no keys on her person, no cleanser's marks 
on her clothing, and she would not talk. 

We had already postponed Elmira's parole for six months. 
When at the end of that time we saw her again, she appeared 
attractive and charming and pleaded to be allowed to return 
to her mother in Oklahoma, where, she assured us, she could 
do an excellent parole. Elmira said that she never had worked 
at her "business" in the state of Oklahoma, for she "respected" 

Con Women 131 

her mother and did not wish her to be worried or to know the 
truth; she would do nothing to "jeopardize the sanctity" of 
her home. These statements indicated beyond all doubt that 
she was a responsible offender. But she had still told us none 
of the things we wanted to know, and she obviously did not 
consider her criminal career at an end. Again adhering to the 
principle that the protection of society has first consideration, 
the Board voted Elmira "maximum" and told her that she 
would have to serve out her full sentence. She rose with great 
dignity, thanked us all in what appeared to be a genuinely 
convincing manner, and said she would be most happy to 
serve her sentence here, where she found great satisfaction in 
her easy job as personal maid to the superintendent. 

There is no doubt in my mind that a lenient policy toward 
professional offenders is a serious mistake on the part of any 
parole board. All prison, jail, and police officials know that 
some of the most frequent topics of conversation overheard 
between inmates are the length of sentences, attitudes of 
judges, and policies of parole boards on certain crimes. There 
is no surer way for a city to get overrun with professional 
criminals than to have the word go out via the grapevine that 
you only have to do a short time on your sentence. It is not 
an uncommon strategy for members of the organized under- 
world to come into a state that has a reputation for being 
lenient, and commit a crime so they can be in prison until 
things blow over in the area where they have previously been 

Yet it would be quite unfair to generalize about all forgers 
and larcenists. Some, even among those who have committed 
serious offenses of this kind, are not habitual criminals or 
members of the organized underworld. I have known several 
women who have been found guilty of grand larceny, such as 
the continuous stealing in a business operation, where the total 
mounted up to well over $30,000 to $40,000 before they got 
caught, who made excellent adjustment and never returned 


to their previous behavior patterns even as much as in one 
single small episode. There are others who are classed as 
occasional or accidental offenders. These women can be 
reached while in custody and once they show they want to 
improve, we can release them with reasonable optimism. 

Several years ago, a particularly brazen and almost fatal 
crime shocked the city. The criminals seem to have acted in 
a hit-and-run manner, and they left the police without a single 

A wealthy matron, who lived in one of the most substantial 
suburbs, was held up and robbed as she put her latchkey in 
the door of her house at about 10 P.M. after returning from 
a dinner party. The unusual aspect of the crime was that she 
was accosted on her own doorstep by a young woman who 
asked her for a match to light a cigarette. As the victim was 
searching her bag for the match, she was grabbed from behind. 
Her attacker held a cone of chloroform over her nose and 
mouth and then dragged her behind some evergreen trees near 
her front door. There, she was stripped of valuable rings, 
pins, earrings, a choker, her bracelets, and her handbag, which 
contained over $200. 

Toward dawn, the lady regained consciousness and crawled 
to the sidewalk. She attracted the driver of a passing milk 
truck, who notified the police. The only lead was her vague 
description of the young lady who asked for the match and 
spoke with a western or possibly southern accent. Except for 
a general idea of her assailants' size, the victim remembered 
nothing. She never saw her second attacker, but because of 
the force used believed it to be a man. 

The police were baffled. Then by association of ideas a 
young police detective who was on another case noticed that 
the young girl he was investigating spoke with an unfamiliar 
accent. Her name was Barbara, and she was a refined young 
woman, with no criminal record, who had been arrested for 

Con Women 133 

larceny. She told a story of being disconsolate over the failure 
of her marriage and the scandal and shame her parents felt her 
divorce had brought on the family, which was socially promi- 
nent in the southern Illinois city she came from. She described 
her childhood in a home with many servants and told about 
her coming-out party, and her first trip to Europe, with her 
sister on a luxury liner. Her marriage to an older man was 
arranged for her and was unhappy from the beginning. The 
birth of her little boy had not helped, and separations and 
reconciliations followed one another rapidly until the divorce, 
when her husband took up permanently with another woman. 

Barbara had returned to her parents' home with her son and 
tried to adjust to the life there. She received adequate support 
for her son, but her father managed everything for her and 
influenced her not to ask for alimony, since he had the means 
to support her and wished to cut her off entirely from her 
former husband. 

As the years passed, the friction at home became unbear- 
able. Barbara tried to go to work, but apparently the family 
wouldn't hear of it. Finally, in desperation, she placed her boy 
in a fashionable boarding school and ran away. 

She told the investigating police officer that she had not 
been able to find work and that she had put her hand in a 
drugstore till, intending to take only enough money to pay 
for her room for one more night and to return the cash as 
soon as she found a job. The officer was skeptical, but as 
Barbara had no previous record, he requested the court to 
postpone action and asked his supervisor to put a "tail" on 
Barbara for a few days to check her story. She seemed too 
refined and too timid a girl to resort to this type of petty crime 
in order to live. 

The officer's misgivings were substantiated when the young 
policewoman who had been assigned to watch Barbara re- 
ported that she had come out of her cheap rooming house the 
previous evening exquisitely groomed and carrying a small 


parcel. She walked to the Public Library, where she waited 
an hour until a flashily dressed middle-aged man met her and 
talked quietly and seriously with her for some minutes. Bar- 
bara handed him the package, which he shook and put in his 
pocket. Then, arm in arm they walked away and soon en- 
tered the main door of one of the largest and most fashionable 
hotels in Boston. In a few minutes, they were seated in the 
dining room, where they ordered and ate a leisurely dinner, 
looking just like any other well-heeled, carefree diners. 

A dapper plainclothesman joined the policewoman for 
dinner, but because of the distance between tables, they were 
unable to hear any conversation, though they had ample time 
to study the man and identify him if the occasion arose. After 
finishing a hearty meal, Barbara and her escort lingered 
smoking and talking quietly until she finally put on her coat 
and he retrieved his from the checkroom. They left the hotel 
and took a taxi which the officers followed at a discreet dis- 
tance but lost when a traffic snarl developed near the city line. 
The police detail reported its story to headquarters and went 

The authorities now had sufficient cause to pick up Barbara 
for questioning in the chloroform robbery even before she 
was out of bed in the morning. She made a very poor criminal. 
Her black wool coat was covered with lint, and even fair-sized 
pieces of the absorbent cotton that had been used to hold the 
chloroform in the cone over the robbery victim's face were in 
her handbag from the night before. She also had seventy 
dollars in crisp bills given by "her man" for her part in the 

At headquarters, Barbara made a full confession. The story 
of her life at home, her childhood, school history, trip to 
Europe, marriage, son, and divorce were true, but now, for 
the first time, she told of her life since she had left home. 

She had gone to Chicago and had tried for two weeks to find 
work, while what money she had dwindled and she ate less 

Con Women 135 

and in cheaper places. Finally, in a railroad station on a rainy 
Sunday afternoon, when she was in utter despair the man, 
Harry, bought her a newspaper and a cup of coffee and 
suggested that they go to the movies. She declined, but when 
she happened to run into him at lunch the next day, he bought 
her a good meal and showed her a consideration and kindness 
she had never known from her husband. At first she did not 
tell him anything of her background, but he appeared so 
sympathetic and she felt so grateful that finally she confided 
in him. 

During the next week, she got a couple of days' work at a 
soda fountain washing dishes. Late each night she met Harry, 
and they ate together. On the fifth night he took her for a 
ride in a car, which she later discovered he had stolen. He 
left her in the car while he went into an apartment building 
where, he said, he had a business call to make. About fifteen 
minutes later he came back displaying a large roll of bills. 
Putting a gun at her side, he forced her to drive seventy miles 
across the state line to a place where they could abandon the 
stolen car and board a Florida-bound train. 

Harry explained that this was his way of life and that from 
now on it was hers. He explained to her that she had been an 
accessory both before and after the crime of armed robbery 
and that if she did not go with him, he would turn her in. 

During the week that followed he changed from the 
considerate lover she had known the previous week into a 
thoroughly depraved brute. They traveled by train and stolen 
car. He gave her new clothes and forced her to discard her 
old ones. On two occasions in the South, when he committed 
other robberies, poor Barbara was on the verge of collapse. 
Harry always left her where he could keep her in sight and 
changed his threats of exposure to threats of killing if she tried 
to leave him. 

From Florida they moved quickly to Boston, where he 
insisted that she snatch the $9.35 from the till to buy chloro- 


form and to pay for one night's lodging in advance. Harry 
found an obscure hangout for them to use after they pulled 
their big snatch, and that was where the police found Barbara. 
Harry had dusted town and she was alone. She seemed 
enormously relieved that her month of horror was over and 
was glad to sign a full confession for her part. In court she 
pleaded guilty to being an accessory and received a long 

From what facts she was able to provide and from detailed 
descriptions which the two plainclothes police officers were 
able to provide, there was no doubt that Harry was a notorious 
criminal with a long record. Several states had issued war- 
rants for his arrest since his last release from prison. Massa- 
chusetts added hers to the list, but since he was not located 
for almost eighteen months when he was arrested by fed- 
eral officers and received a ten- to twelve-year sentence in 
the Atlanta penitentiary he has not been returned to Massa- 
chusetts. A detainer is still lodged against him, along with 
those from four other states. It will be a long, long time before 
this man is loose to prey on innocent people, but he un- 
doubtedly will be out some day. He is the canny type of 
criminal who knows all the legal loopholes, and he will never 
be silly enough to do a job in a state that has a habitual 
criminal law which would subject him to life imprisonment. 

Barbara's case was entirely different. She was a first of- 
fender with a record in this state only one week long, and 
throughout her entire criminal life she was under the influence 
of a seasoned offender. Since the Board felt further harm 
would be done by the contacts made during a long confine- 
ment, it voted her parole as a "special case" at an early date 
after a very careful plan had been worked out. 

Barbara was released shortly before Christmas and was 
allowed to return home under the interstate compact as a 
visitor to see her son and stay with her family for ten days. 
She then returned to Massachusetts to start work her agent 

Con Women 137 

had found for her in a hospital. After three months, she was 
adjusting so well that a first-class hospital accepted her in its 
nurses' training program. The staff was fully aware of her 
history and her parole progressed without incident. On her 
day off Barbara used to drop into the Board office to show us 
any new clothes she had bought or to display snapshots of her 
son and her family. After two years she was able to send her 
son to school in the East, where she could see him every week. 
Now she has completed both her nurses' training and her 
parole and none of us feel she will ever be in trouble again. 
She understood her problem completely and had true sorrow 
for the great wrong she had done. With firm resolution she 
set out to be independent by learning to support herself, and 
she found a great source of satisfaction in the service and 
kindness to others that nursing involves. 

This woman was an accidental offender rather than a real 
criminal, but, had she not been caught and had she continued 
under the evil influence of a person of Harry's caliber, she 
would have become so seriously involved that she would never 
have had the strength and courage to work her way out. 


Teen-age Criminals 

ACCORDING TO experienced observers, the rate of juvenile 
delinquency is increasing. Its exact extent is not known 
because many juvenile delinquents are never apprehended. 
Many of you readers may search your memories and recall 
some of your own foolish actions of adolescent years which 
might well have landed you before a court of law. It may 
have been the time you broke a window and "got way with 
it." Then again it may have been the time you took an apple 
from a peddler's cart. The truth is that many delinquent acts 
are never discovered and, by the grace of God and good 
parents your criminal career ended in that early stage. 

Much has been said and written about juvenile delinquency 
in recent years. We apply the term to children and adoles- 
cents whose thinking is immature and, therefore, they are not 
deemed responsible for their acts. Over the years the public 
has developed a feeling that these teen-agers should not be 
stigmatized as criminals. This is a laudable aim; no man, 
woman, or child who sincerely tries to reform should be 
branded by public opinion. 

In many states the statutes require that boys and girls 
committing delinquent acts must appear before the juvenile 
sessions of the courts, or special courts, until they reach a 
certain age. Seventeen years is the average. Cut this still leaves 
the older teen-age group exposed to adult methods of cor- 
rection and rehabilitation. Our Board annually handles the 
cases of many young women who have learned the facts of 
life the hard, stark, realistic way. Their cases challenge the 
fullest capabilities of both the institutional and parole staffs. 

Teen-age Criminals 139 

It is my purpose to present a factual report, illustrated by 
actual cases, on this highly publicized problem without criti- 
cism of any of the authorities who have dealt with it in the 
hope that reading reports of typical cases will make the public 
discuss them and express some healthy, and eventually en- 
lightened, opinions on the problems they illustrate. The pub- 
lic is paying the bill and, at the same time, is being harmed 
by these juveniles. 

A heart-sickening shadow is slowly creeping over the hori- 
zon of all of us who work with adult offenders. Today we 
see girls who have just reached their seventeenth or eighteenth 
birthdays giving every indication of becoming hardened, 
incorrigible criminals. This was not the case even a few years 

Sheila is an example of our growing problem. She was a 
pretty little girl of seventeen, cute as a minute, with bright 
eyes and soft blond curls. She wore a size nine dress and 
wore it to provoke every male she encountered. When I first 
saw her, Sheila was appearing before the Parole Board. The 
superintendent of the women's institution in which she had 
then served eleven months felt the girl was ready for release, 
and after a long detailed interview the Board voted to parole 
her, fully realizing she was a very poor risk in view of her 
history. We agreed that with an understanding employer and 
under the supervision of a trained agent with whom Sheila 
could discuss her problems as often as necessary living in 
the community might benefit her. 

Although Sheila had an IQ of only 80, she belonged in 
that subnormal intelligence group whose members so glibly 
talk their way out of almost any situation. At the Board 
hearing she attempted to do just that, but it seemed to us that 
much of her self-assurance and worldly sophistication was just 
a front to cover up feelings of insecurity dating back to her 


At the age of seven Sheila, and her five brothers and sisters, 
had been turned over to the State by court order as neglected 
children. The original complaint had been made by her 
father in one of his few sober moments, when he notified the 
probation officer that his wife was missing from home and 
the little children were alone. The record is quite vague 
about Sheila's life before she was seven. But one does not 
need a vivid imagination to picture it, for in that span of years 
her father had been arrested eleven times for drunkenness, 
twice for non-support, once for fathering an illegitimate 
child, once for violation of the election laws, twice for assault 
and battery, and several times on loitering complaints. He 
had served brief jail sentences and one six-month term in the 
house of correction. It was only too apparent that he was 
an entirely irresponsible individual, and it is interesting to 
note that his complaint to the court seems to have been one 
of the few constructive moves in his life. He disappeared 
soon afterward and never by letter, phone, or visit did he 
inquire about his children again. The efforts of all state 
workers to locate him have proved fruitless. 

Sheila's mother was ten years her husband's junior, and at 
a very early age she became a chronic alcoholic who consist- 
ently stayed out until four or five in the morning and only 
came home when she was hopelessly drunk. The probation 
officer's report indicated that the six children were inade- 
quately clothed and fed and that they were frequently seen 
eating from garbage cans in the neighborhood while their 
mother squandered their welfare money on liquor for her- 
self and her men friends. In spite of all this, Sheila had affec- 
tion and loyalty for her mother in those early years. It was 
the rejection of this love that made her unhappy, restless, and 
insecure. Rather than face and solve the problems she met, 
Sheila always ran away from them. 

When first placed with the State, she was examined by a 
psychiatrist and found to be "disturbed but sane," and her 

Teen-age Criminals 141 

first need, for obvious reasons, was a good home. A foster 
mother who had been able to give the satisfactions of home 
to many children without them failed to make progress 
with Sheila, who soon resorted to lying and stealing to ex- 
press her difficulty. A second foster mother was no more 
successful. Sheila ran away and was returned to the State 
as soon as she was found. There followed another foster 
home, and then another, but to no avail. Sheila was given 
next a six-month trial in an excellent private school for chil- 
dren where daily study and psychotherapy were possible. 
Even that was no help to Sheila, who then was ten years old. 
She wrote to her mother, begging to be allowed to help start 
a home for herself and her brothers and sisters. When her 
mother didn't even answer her letters, Sheila ran away. 

Fifteen foster homes in over five years all failed to give 
Sheila a sense of security. When she was thirteen, she carne 
before the Juvenile Court for stealing and was sentenced to 
the Industrial School on what is termed a stubbornness com- 
plaint. This would keep her under supervision until she was 
twenty-one years of age. Eight times she ran away from the 
school. Once she got as far as New Jersey; another time 
she was arrested in Oklahoma City. Twice she was able to 
"bum" rides with men to California, and once to Florida. On 
each return to the school, she got great satisfaction by describ- 
ing her exploits, particularly sexual ones, to the other inmates. 
Medical examinations proved that her stories were not exag- 

The psychiatrist at this time reported her "a seriously dis- 
turbed person, lacking completely the capacity for affection- 
ate relationships, unable to relate herself to others, which re- 
flects a marked disturbance in the very early relationships." 

She was released under strict parole supervision, but unhap- 
pily that ended when she returned to the school pregnant. 
On a second parole from the Industrial School, Sheila stole 
small sums of money from her employer, which resulted in 


her commitment to the Reformatory for Women, where I 
first became acquainted with her. 

Our efforts to reach Sheila were as futile as those of the 
two other state departments that had previously tried. She 
was now strong, energetic, and a reasonably capable domestic 
worker, but she deserted the job we provided for her the first 
day she had off. 

We had to issue a "whereabouts unknown" warrant for her 
arrest, but the police were unable to locate her on our war- 
rant until three months later, when she was arrested at two 
o'clock one morning driving a stolen car with four teen-age 
boys. They were all armed, and the loot from the residential 
burglaries the gang had committed during the evening was 
still in the car. Sheila was completely brazen at police head- 
quarters and talked freely of her career as a "gun moll," 
signed statements involving the entire gang, and gaily went 
off with the police to show them the barn they had used for 
two weeks as a hangout. 

The court gave Sheila three six-year sentences to run con- 
currently, and though she was pregnant again, her stories 
about her sex activities were so fantastic that it was entirely 
impossible to adjudicate any one of the boys as father of the 

Sheila will come up for parole again when a reasonable part 
of her sentence has been served and when the superintendent 
feels she has matured enough to risk trial in the community 
again. There has never been an absolutely hopeless case, but 
for Sheila, who has not as yet reached her eighteenth birth- 
day, the outlook cannot seem very bright. Perhaps her baby 
will have a sobering influence. Perhaps it will provide her 
with a normal outlet for her emotions and will give her some- 
thing to anchor to and build on. I am sure her supervisors 
will foster and explore the mother-child relationship with her 
to the fullest, but I'm afraid the reasonable conclusion now 
is that, although Sheila will talk a great volume of mother love 
and devotion, her performance before the baby is six months 

Teen-age Criminals 143 

old will be one of gross neglect and rejection. For the baby's 
own sake, if he proves to be adoptable material, it will be far 
better to place him at an early age with eager, adequate, and 
responsible adoptive parents. 

Sheila is not an isolated case at all. She is typical of the 
delinquent teen-age girls who come before the Parole Board. 
Her behavior is the direct result of her early environment, but 
when we try to rectify the situation, we can take remedial 
steps only with the individual, rarely with the environment. 
Although one can in no way excuse an individual or overlook 
her faults, the roots of a problem like Sheila's are so deep that 
one cannot help but question society's approach to such cases. 

Medical science has taught us in this past generation that 
insanity is not inherited. We more or less accept that belief 
as fact today. Yet situations, conditions, and environments 
that permanently mar young children's emotional stability are 
allowed to continue to breed unnoticed in the majority of 
communities generation after generation. Broken homes and 
the excessive use of alcohol are, of course, the two most com- 
mon factors behind neglected children. 

As I have watched these very young girls who have re- 
ceived adult sentences to the Reformatory for Women, there 
seems sometimes to be a gap of only a few short hours be- 
tween the time they were in conflict at home as children and 
the day they ride, in the custody of the Police Department, 
to serve a sentence as an adult prisoner. 

That was the case with Edna, who was adopted by an eager, 
meticulous woman who felt the presence of this child would 
save her own marriage. Perhaps it would have, too, but her 
husband had been killed in an automobile accident when the 
child was four years old. 

The mother then concentrated her efforts on spoiling the 
child, lavishing affection, presents, clothing, and dancing les- 
sons on her, and, in return, demanding perfection that was 
hevond Edna's natural ahilirv to achieve. In this case Edna's 


unreliability was the first sign of serious trouble. Instead of 
coming home after school, she hung around with boys, came 
in late at night, lied, and finally began practicing petty 
thievery. When her foster mother resorted to physical pun- 
ishment and strapped Edna, which she often did, even after 
the girl was well past adolescence, Edna's reaction was to 
become more evasive. 

After such an episode, on a pleasant summer evening, Edna 
went downtown on an errand to the drugstore, where she 
lingered looking for some of her usual school chums or as- 
sociates. Soon a stranger on a motorcycle stopped and asked 
her if she would like a ride. She gladly accepted and that very 
night had intercourse voluntarily several times with this 
young married man. (This was in no way a rape case and 
should not be so regarded.) The next time the man took her 
riding she was not quite so lucky, since he had a couple of 
his friends waiting at the isolated spot by the lake where he 
and Edna had gone before. Edna had relations with three of 
the four men, but by that time she was so dirty and dis- 
heveled that she was afraid to go home. One of the men then 
gave her three dollars and a ride to a nearby city, where 
she took a cheap room in a disreputable hotel. 

Mother, meanwhile, was wringing her hands at police head- 
quarters over the inefficiency of police departments in general 
and loudly bemoaning the ingratitude of the girl for whom 
she had "done everything." 

Three days later Edna and a girl friend she had met in the 
hotel were arrested for evading an innkeeper and for larceny. 
The new friend had taught Edna how to enter a large metro- 
politan hotel, order dinner, eat the main course, and after 
ordering dessert calmly walk out. Each girl picked up a suit- 
case near the main desk as they left to give the appearance 
of being tourists. The hotel did not prosecute, but the owners 
of the suitcases did, and both girls were found guilty of 
larceny and sent to the Women's Reformatory. 

Teen-age Criminals 145 

The case of Edna presents a double challenge to the Parole 
Board. The first step, of course, is to try to get a young, in- 
experienced first offender out of the institution just as soon 
as possible so that she will not be further corrupted by the 
seasoned offenders. However, it is quite obvious that there 
is much work to be done to help the adoptive mother make a 
home where Edna can make a satisfactory adjustment. This 
type of problem is most difficult. Since we have no case 
history on the mother and no legal control, every step must 
be made on a voluntary basis. If we find that the mother is 
sincere in wanting to find out the subtle ways that she herself 
hurt Edna in the past and the ways she can help her in the 
future, we usually try to enlist the aid of the family clergy- 
man or a private social agency, for we know that long after 
the parole department has had to withdraw there still will be 
problems to discuss and solve. 

The judge who sentenced Edna was a very wise man. By 
separating her and her foster mother he gave each of them 
a chance to look at the other without emotion and without 
actual physical conflict. We were able to explain to the 
mother that Edna was somewhat below normal intelligence 
and therefore she should not expect too much from her. 
Mother, who had been an energetic and successful business- 
Woman herself, had the idea that adopting Edna and giving 
her opportunities was enough to assure her success. There- 
fore, when Edna failed the mother thought she was just plain 
bad. Edna is never going to be able to meet the mother's 
high expectations, because God did not give that poor girl 
the mental equipment to do so, but she can achieve moderate 
success in certain limited occupations if she has the proper 
understanding and encouragement. 

It did not take the trained worker long to explain the 
situation to the mother, and it was really rather sad how 
grateful she was. By the time Edna had served six months of 
her sentence, we were able to release her to start her trial in 


the community under the supervision of her agent. This 
gave a longer period of supervision and the results proved we 
needed it. The mother actually needed more counseling than 
the daughter, but the gratifying part of this case was that 
the mother always was most co-operative and eager to work 
out their problems. 

If this unfortunate woman had sought the services of a 
family agency, a trained psychiatric social worker might have 
helped them avoid both the sorrow and the separation. 

Another, and less successful, example is Helene a vital 
little girl of foreign-born parents. Her mother was an at- 
tractive, well-poised woman who was unable to make a go of 
her own marriage to the father "because he was strong willed, 
opinionated and intolerant. " He had, however, always been 
able to earn a substantial living. 

When Helene was four her mother left home and went to 
a nearby state to live with "Uncle Lester," and her father 
brought a "housekeeper" into the home. This woman was 
more interested in her own son than in the little girl, and 
when Helene was six, she was placed in the first of a long 
series of foster homes. Then, four years later, the psychia- 
trists were called to examine Helene and found her to be a 
sane and "deprived little girl who has been unacceptable 
everywhere she went, an unusually nice child and apparently 
good material." 

In the state school where she was placed Helene became 
involved in a serious situation with another girl. When the 
matron tried to separate them, Helene rebelled, severely beat 
the matron, fled, and finally barricaded herself in a room. 
When the matron tried to drag her out, Helene fought so 
savagely that four men had to be called. Before she could 
be subdued, Helene had bitten the little finger from one 
man's hand. Her language was unbelievably foul and vulgar. 
She was given a sentence for assault and battery to the 

Teen-age Criminals 147 

had a record of eleven previous arrests in a three-year period. 
Four were in Massachusetts: one as a stubborn child, one for 
vagrancy, and two for escaping from a school for juveniles. 
She also was arrested once in Birmingham, Alabama, twice in 
San Diego for vagrancy, once in New York, once in New 
Mexico and the other two times in Chicago, where she served 
a three-month jail sentence. She escaped from the Reforma- 
tory within four months and hasn't been located since. 

On and on they go, one young girl after the other sod- 
den alcoholics at fifteen, drug users and confirmed prostitutes 
long before they can legally marry under our laws without 
parental permission. 

Although we know from experience there is never an ab- 
solutely hopeless case, we also know from our experience that 
when a woman has been arrested more than five times her 
prospects of establishing a completely new way of life are 
very poor. The only hope lies in awakening within her 
the desire to conform and the desire to try. If the desire is 
there, the way can be found. However, as I watch the array 
of seasoned offenders who are developing around us today, 
I frequently wonder if we are even heading in the right direc- 
tion at all. 

Perhaps the knowledge of the spread of drugs being used 
by minors today and the startling revelations and publicity 
given the problem by national investigations may alert parents 
sufficiently to realize that right in our own communities 
no matter whether city, village, farm, mountain, or seashore 
we have juvenile crime. Small crimes lead to larger crimes, 
and larger crimes to tragedy. The neglected child becomes 
the delinquent child, and continued delinquency leads to 

I would urge mothers to remember that a little affection and 
a helping hand extended to a three-year-old unloved child to- 
day may save him from the electric chair twenty years hence. 
This isn't sentimentality. This is fact. 


Nasty Crimes 

To MY WAY of thinking, abortion is the very dirtiest business 
we deal with at any time. Our records show that the mem- 
bers of that very lucrative profession take extreme risks to 
make their contacts. The records also show that they are 
generally discovered by the law through a predictable pat- 
tern of circumstances. A young woman goes to a doctor 
because she has had severe abdominal pains and has been hem- 
orrhaging for several days. She does for just one reason 
a fear she is going to die (and sometimes she does). 

The doctor sends her to the hospital at once and notifies 
the police. If the girl is not too sick to be questioned, the 
police try to get the story from her directly. If she is dan- 
gerously sick, or if she dies as a result of the abortion, the 
police turn the matter over to the Division of Criminal In- 
vestigation, which will have to try to piece the story together, 
with very few clues to work from. The abortionist and her 
assistants do not call a doctor or take the girl to a hospital. 
All abortionists that I have known have nerves of cold steel, 
and they think a great deal more of money and their business 
success and reputation than they do of the lives of their 
victims or the souls of unborn children. 

Usually the investigators find the victim has been keeping 
company with a married man and has been having relations 
with him regularly until she discovers she is pregnant. Then 
they both get panicky, and he talks to a "friend" who talks to 
a "friend" who knows a woman who will help them out. The 
price runs all the way from $300 (the fee asked by the or- 
ganized abortion rings) down to $75 or $100 for the woman 

Nasty Crimes 149 

who does it as a sideline. Generally, the actual abortionist 
gets three-fourths of the fee and one-fourth goes to the con- 
tact. Small wonder that the people in this racket can have 
fur coats and flashy cars, when you figure they rarely spend 
half an hour with a patient. 

After the terms have been agreed upon and the cash raised 
and this is indeed a cash business the details are ar- 
ranged. No names are ever used, no introductions or ad- 
dresses are ever given. The "friend of the friend" says to 
the man in the case that if he and his girl will come to "Joe's" 
on a certain night at a set time, everything will be taken care 
of. Joe's is invariably a third-rate tavern in a low or question- 
able part of town. 

At the given time they sit at a table or in a dark booth. 
Eventually a stranger walks by and gives them a sign. Gen- 
erally the stranger drives them, in his own car, to some part 
of the city with which they are unfamiliar. They drive 
around the block a couple of times and, when a window shade 
is snapped up, the driver stops and the girl goes in alone. 
She asks for "Mabel," who appears promptly and asks her 
how many months along she is. If the answer is no more than 
three, Mabel tells her to go upstairs, remove certain of her 
clothing, and lie down on a table. Mabel now takes the cash, 
counts it, and at once produces the catheter, syringe, sharp 
stick, or a piece of slippery elm and inserts it in the young 
woman's body. She tells her to keep it there for twenty 
minutes. Mabel leaves the room. There is no conversation. 

When the twenty minutes has elapsed, Mabel returns and 
removes her surgical equipment and gives her victim some 
highly technical advice about what to expect. She always 
recommends a hot bath and gives her a few pills. The victim 
dresses. Mabel snaps the curtain and the victim departs, to 
be picked up by the car which has been prowling in the area. 

If the foetus is not passed within the next twenty-four 
hours, the girl may come back for another treatment without 


extra charge. She may even come back for three or four extra 
treatments if she lives that long! But, on all the records 
I've read there has never been a cash refund for failure to 
produce an abortion. Apparently all abortionists "guarantee 

One noteworthy factor about the personalities of the 
women in this profession is that they are all very pleasant, 
competent women. Seldom are they young, and most of them 
are foreign-born or have a foreign background. Generally 
they are of average or high intelligence. I have never known 
of one who was an alcoholic or a drug user. They almost 
always own their own homes, have large families, and are 
adored by their children. These children always claim to be 
amazed that "Mamma" would do such a thing and argue end- 
lessly that the one girl who had "complications" was the only 
one Mamma ever helped. They are sure she did it because 
she was sorry for the girl. 

The police investigation, however, brings out a story that 
is the direct opposite from the family's. Mamma is known 
to have been aborting for years. The local police have 
watched the house week in and week out and have even 
called in the State Police to help. They have hidden in the 
shrubbery for hours when they have received a tip, but 
Mamma has been hoodwinking them for years. She may very 
likely have been tipped herself, on such occasions, by some- 
one at headquarters who was giving her protection. 

When it comes to releasing an abortionist, I always have 
the feeling that her stay inside has only made a superficial 
impression, but I do feel society is far better protected if 
such women are released under parole and local police super- 
vision and made to work at honest employment on their re- 
turn rather than letting them "go out free" to start right 
in again. 

While all releasing authorities agree that the abortionist is 
likely to repeat her crime, it is important to note that, as far 

Nasty Crimes 151 

as I can recollect, we have never had an abortionist rearrested 
for abortion while she was on parole and under supervision. I 
regret to state that we have had many who resorted to it after 
supervision had been terminated. One of the strongest argu- 
ments for the truly indeterminate sentence is proved by that 
fact. But as long as we can legally keep watch over them, 
parole acts as a crutch to help these women stay within the 

Unfortunately, a crutch is no help if a person won't use it, 
and there are always women who spurn every effort to help 
them and who resent all authority. Jean was one of those, and 
the trail of destruction she left behind her before she was 
finally committed to the Reformatory will be responsibility to 
the state social and corrective agencies for a long time to 
come. She is one of those girls whose absolute flouting of the 
laws of society will always remain a mystery to us. 

In time we may become expert at solving problems of 
correction, and maybe we will even learn to cure people like 
Jean. But we will still be working in areas where the harm, 
both to society and to the individual, will already have been 
done. To make real strides in curing crime we are going to 
have to learn what causes it in the first place. We hope that 
the running records that we keep of our parolees, who are 
living in the community and are faced with the same prob- 
lems that have always led people to crime, will give us clues 
to the original causes. We have over a thousand of those re- 
cords, which we constantly analyze and evaluate, hoping to 
discover some pattern of behavior or some trend that will 
guide us, both in the treatment of individual cases and in our 
work in general, but it is too early to depend completely on 
the validity of the over-all conclusions we have reached so far. 

Jean raised her children in a breeding ground for crime. 
The conditions of her household were known to the local 
officials, and, as you read the case, I'm sure you will agree 


with me that the town officers, the clergyman, and the court 
officials who spent years gracefully passing the buck back and 
forth will have to share with Jean the responsibility for the 
almost inevitable future of crime that awaits her children. 

Jean herself is of Indian extraction and was brought up 
in a mill town where she lived in happy, pleasant surround- 
ings. She remembers her parents, who are both dead, as being 
kind and considerate, though she has little to say of her two 
brothers, who feel she has disgraced the family name and who 
will have nothing to do with her. In school she was a better 
than average student but was so uninterested that she left as 
soon as she was fourteen years old. For the next few years 
she worked at one job after another around her home town 
without ever settling down. 

Her court record began when she was eighteen, when she 
was arrested for fornication and served a six-month jail sen- 
tence. Afterwards she returned to her mother's home but 
could not, or would not, fit into the quiet routine. Her 
mother had always tried to set a good example for her and now 
tried more directly to lead her toward a wholesome life, but, 
after months of effort, she could only describe her own 
daughter as headstrong, willful, and opinionated. Within a 
year Jean had run away from home to marry an Army man, 
and we can learn nothing about the next ten years of her 
life, for she lived at Army posts in various parts of the coun- 

By the time she was twenty-nine she had seven living 
children and was taking care of them so badly that the school 
authorities brought a complaint against her. This is the first 
of the reports that no one in authority did anything about. 
It stated that the home was in total disorder, cluttered, poorly 
furnished and so isolated that only a cart path led to the house. 
For long stretches at a time the children would be absent from 
school without reason, and when they did come they were 
dirty beyond belief. Jean told the investigators that her hus- 

Nasty Crimes 153 

band was overseas and the children made her nervous so she 
kept them in bed most of the time. There was a brief spurt 
of enthusiasm in the town to do something about that situa- 
tion, and for a while conditions improved. 

Two years later, however, the enthusiasm had died and 
Jean's family was in more deplorable straits than ever. She 
was unable to supervise the children and had let them run 
wild until the school would no longer accept them because 
they were suffering from scabies, pediculosis, and crab lice 
that could be traced directly to filthy conditions at home. In 
the meantime well-founded rumors reached the authorities 
that Jean had begun drinking heavily and that she was bring- 
ing soldiers back to her house at all hours of the night. Dur- 
ing one fracas her oldest son had tried to stab her. The 
authorities warned her that if she did not take better care of 
the children and straighten out her personal life they would 
have to take formal court action, but the threat made no im- 
pression on Jean. 

In another two months neglect charges were brought 
against her seven children. No one could have benefited more 
from supervised care, but the case was continued without a 
finding, and the children continued to live at their wretched 
home. Six months after that the Red Cross came into the 
picture and submitted a request to the Army that the hus- 
band be returned from overseas. The Board of Health had 
the house cleaned and thoroughly sprayed with DDT, yet 
within two weeks the children were again excluded from 
school for being so dirty that they threatened the health of 
their classmates. By this time Jean had assumed the attitude 
that the world was against her and said that she was going to 
give up trying, though that she had ever tried was difficult 
to see. 

Four months later the father returned from overseas and 
assured the judge that he would make sure conditions im- 
proved, and for a while they did. Yet at the same time a 


clergyman who had tried to help Jean reported that she was 
entirely unco-operative and impossible to work with. Mark, 
the fifteen-year-old son, had by that time been found guilty 
of burglary and sentenced to a state school for juveniles, which 
he liked because conditions there were so much better than 
those at home. The father was returned to overseas duty be- 
cause there was no marked improvement in the home condi- 
tions. Both Army and local authorities were put on guard to 
try to prevent Jean's reverting to her old habits of entertain- 
ing soldiers now that her husband was away. Apparently the 
watch was not close enough, because a while later a lieutenant 
from the Army had to investigate the place. He found it so 
dirty that he would not sit down, and Jean was filthy, messy, 
and belligerent. The children were as dirty as she, but by 
some miracle they seemed healthy. Soldiers visiting a house 
like that were subjecting their health to a serious threat, and 
the lieutenant called the school department and the Chief of 
Police for help. There he learned that only two weeks before 
Jean had been found drunk, lying in the road, and so covered 
with filth, which included human excrement, that the police 
refused to pick her up. 

Months went by, while all the interested authorities held 
conferences about Jean that accomplished nothing. She was 
arrested for drunkenness in a neighboring town but was re- 
leased. A year after that she was brought into court for 
contributing to the delinquency of her two minor sons. 
Though there are no official details of that proceeding except 
that the case was dismissed, neighbors were sure that she was 
having an incestuous relationship with her oldest son and that 
her husband while he was home had been having one with 
their oldest daughter. 

Another whole year passed, but then the State Police were 
finally brought into the case, probably by citizens who were 
outraged by the refusal of town officials to do anything about 
the continuing disgrace of Jean's household. Investigating 

Nasty Crimes 155 

situations like that, where the usual channels have proved 
ineffective, is one of the most important powers of the State 
Police and one that is not generally known. Jean's case is a 
perfect example of its value. For years the filth of her home 
and the neglect of her children had given the local authorities 
ample reason to take some action, to protect the children if 
nothing else. Her continuing prostitution concerned the mili- 
tary authorities and should have concerned the town, but 
nothing had been done. 

The State Police, as soon as they were called in, watched 
the house constantly for a week and interviewed all the 
neighbors, from whom they learned that for more than three 
years the children had never had enough clothes and food 
and had lived only by begging. They were always dirty and 
were apparently never allowed indoors at home, but somehow 
they stayed healthy. Every night a stream of cars came to 
the house, and singing and shouting went on well into the 
early morning hours. The police learned that the daughter, 
Phyllis, hung around with girl friends in local cafes and 
picked up soldiers. I quote here from the police report on 
Jean's case. 

August 10. Two State Police officers dressed as Army person- 
nel talked with two of Phyllis's girl friends on a downtown street. 
The first propositioned Mr. J. and later repeated her offer in front 
of Mr. M. That same day the officers talked with Phyllis, who 
invited them to go to her home and gave them the address. They 
visited the home and while there observed Phyllis having inter- 
course with two different men, Frank D., eighteen, and Harry V., 
eighteen. While Phyllis was engaged in these activities the offi- 
cers were able to speak to her, as she occupied a room which 
opened off the living room. At 12.30 A.M. the same night Jean 
propositioned both officers. She stated that she and Phyllis would 
both have sexual intercourse and and she would perform an un- 
natural act for them for $10 per person. She used extremely foul 
language in making the proposition. She was then four months' 


pregnant and had been advised by a doctor to refrain from sexual 
intercourse as the foetus had seated itself in the wrong position 
and there was danger of stillbirth. 

It was noted by the officers that the house was completely de- 
void of any sanitation. Garbage, urine, exposed excrement of six 
dogs and seven cats were in every room of the house, exposing 
the four children, one infant, and four adult residents to any 

With more than enough evidence to support them, the 
police raided the house. Jean was found guilty of neglect of 
minor children, keeping a disorderly house, and soliciting for 
prostitution. She appealed to the Superior Court but the de- 
cision of the lower court was upheld. The court discovered 
that though Phyllis was only fifteen years old, she was already 
married. She was convicted of adultery, and Harry V. and 
Frank D. were found guilty of rape. 

Jean may be unusual, but her record, unfortunately, is not. 
I cite it to show how a typical neglect case festers when it is 
allowed to develop in any community. Think of the gigantic 
task the judge presented to the various state departments that 
hot August morning when he turned over to them those eight 
neglected minor children for temporary custody. If these 
poor children turn out to be juvenile delinquents will it be 
any wonder to anyone? It will not require very deep research 
to know the reason why. 

There was an interesting sidelight to this case eleven months 
later, when we were to see Jean at her regular release hearing. 
I was driving to the Reformatory by a pleasant back road 
and was about a quarter of a mile from it when I noticed three 
young women walking along the road ahead of me. They 
were obviously inmates, all dressed up and on their way to 
the Board meeting for their interviews. As I came along, one 
of the girls must have heard the car because, without so much 
as turning her head to see who or what the occupant might 
be, she gave her sweater a jerk to display her figure and started 

Nasty Crimes 157 

to walk with the age-old swing of the women of her pro- 
fession. In spite of seventeen children and a year in prison, 
Jean was still ready for business. I let my car roll quietly past 
the three girls and then couldn't help smiling to see Jean look 
a little abashed at her wasted effort. 

At the meeting that day the superintendent stated rather 
strongly that Jean had not adjusted and that her progress had 
not been what could have been expected from her. I was 
hardly surprised, and we did not vote to parole her. 


Defective Delinquents 

WHEN i CAME on the Board ten years ago, there were about 
one hundred and fifty defective delinquent women prisoners 
who were eligible for release and supervision. Defective De- 
linquents are persons of low mentality who give evidence of 
becoming chronic behavior problems. These women (as well 
as about 500 male "D.D." prisoners) were under life commit- 
ment. They lived in a Defective Delinquent Colony operated 
as a separate institution, using part of the physical facilities 
of the State Farm. At one time defective delinquents were 
held in schools for the feeble-minded. There youngsters with 
antisocial tendencies could be handled while chronologically 
young in years, if they were able to retain what they had been 
taught; but others, as they grew older, could not be handled 
in the ordinary regime of these schools. The girls developed 
their natural drives without inhibitions, the boys grew into 
big husky men with infantile brains who would punch others, 
attack without reason, and attempt to commit sex offenses. 
The Defective Delinquent Colony was started on the 
theory, therefore, that the feeble-minded who had become a 
constant nuisance could be better cared for by the trained per- 
sonnel of the Department of Correction and that the schools 
for the feeble-minded could then be left to train patients who 
were trainable. This thinking seemed sound at the time the 
law was passed, but as time went along the plan in operation 
caused the colony to become the dumping ground actually 
of hundreds of unwanted handicapped individuals who were 
buried there until they died and who had never actually com- 
mitted a crime. 

Defective Delinquents 159 

Children sent by their parents on a stubbornness complaint 
to a State Training School were transferred on the whim of 
an institution superintendent to the D.D. colony for life. My 
hair actually stood on end the first day the full implications 
of my responsibilities as a Board member came to me. The 
superintendent of one of our large institutions had invited me 
for lunch in her own dining room. She was naively bragging 
about the duties and powers of the position. She turned side- 
ways and, with an all-embracing gesture of her hand, pointed 
toward her institution, saying, "Without so much as leaving 
my office, under existing law, I can put any woman in my 
institution away for life." Continuing, she elaborated, "I just 
pick up the telephone, talk to the District Court Judge, ex- 
plain that Nellie is guilty of refractory conduct, send him 
down the papers which he always signs, and away goes Nellie 
for life." 

The superintendent did not add that in so doing she (and 
all other superintendents who did that) violated the constitu- 
tional rights of the individual by not actually bringing the 
prisoner into court and that all such commitments were il- 
legal because these poor feeble-minded prisoners had not 
been accorded due process of law. This is only one type of 
irregular commitment. There are many others. 

As mentioned in the preceding chapter, I do not believe 
that the defective delinquent belongs in the prison field at all. 
The majority do not know the difference between right and 
wrong, therefore they are not responsible for their acts. 
Many are permanent custodial cases and for their own sake 
and the anguish caused their families, they should not be in 
prison. Others may adjust in a protected environment with 
their own family or with a patient, understanding employer 
in the community for a time at least. 

Our department decided to make a thorough review of the 
defective delinquents. No one really knew where they all 
were. There was no complete list with the current status of 


all individuals available anywhere in the state at that time. 
As I explored the defective delinquent situation as the years 
progressed, many astonishing things came to light. Since 
there was no psychiatrist employed in the department, dan- 
gerous sex deviates and insane persons were among the D.D.'s 
presented to the Parole Board for consideration. We had no 
psychiatric advice and no appropriation to obtain any. The 
recommendation of the superintendent was all that the law 
required. One girl who had been twenty-six years in insti- 
tutions, lacking friends or relatives, had never been presented 
to any Parole Board even for consideration. There were 
crippled and disfigured women whom no one wanted. Some 
women had five or six grown-up children, who never came to 
see them; these children frankly told our agent, as we 
methodically followed every slirn clue to find suitable homes, 
that they didn't know their own mother, that she never did 
anything for them when they were children, so why should 
they do anything for her now? This sounds cold and brutal, 
yet why should a son jeopardize his own marriage and home 
by asking his wife to live with an irascible, jabbering, unrea- 
sonable old woman who can't even attend to her own cleanli- 
ness, much less help with the household chores, a woman 
whom he remembered if he remembered at all as a fur- 
tive, dirty, nagging hag, always drunk. 

Conferences were held with the several departments on 
methods of correcting the situation, but progress was slow. In 
1947 the Commissioner of Mental Health and the Parole Board, 
working jointly, obtained an amendment to the Defective 
Delinquent Law which appeared as a wise solution at that 
time. In lay language, it provided for the screening of all 
D.D.'s by two psychiatrists. 

1. Those found to be insane could be transferred to the 
Mental Health Department, where they had facilities for 

2. Those found to be neither defective nor delinquent were 
to be taken to Probate Court for release. 

Defective Delinquents 161 

3. Those still defective and delinquent were to be separated 
into two classes by the psychiatrists: those who were "suitable 
for parole" and those who were "not suitable for parole." 
(At that time 252 were found not suitable for parole; 61 were 
found suitable.) 

This worked well in some cases and we had the satisfaction 
of knowing that there could no longer be forgotten prisoners, 
but the appropriation was never large enough and the work 
of necessity was of a very superficial nature the reports too 
meager to be of much value to the releasing department. 

Through the years, much knowledge of the problem has 
now been accumulated from the Department of Correction 
itself, from the personnel at the State Farm, and from the 
families and employers of some of the girls. The girls them- 
selves can contribute little if any valuable information, since 
most of them are so dull they cannot be trained (even in a 
ten-year period) to tell time or to make change. Consequently, 
their testimony as to whether they had appeared in court or 
whether they were railroaded at the time of their commit- 
ment would be of little value. Most of them couldn't tell a 
court from a post office or vice versa. 

Many bills have been presented to the Legislature to correct 
the status of the illegal commitments of these forlorn defective 
delinquents and most have been referred to Special Recess 
Commissions for study. Definite progress has been made. 
Under recent legislation, substantial numbers of both males 
and females who were improperly committed have been taken 
into court after application to the district attorney in the 
county from which they were committed so that their cases 
could be reviewed and their rights protected. 

There is a clause in this new legislation wherein the pre- 
siding justice may recommit an individual for thirty-five days' 
examination to the Defective Delinquent Colony, if he deems 
it wise. But there are many other inmates who have already 
been tried for a crime (even though there might have been a 
flaw in the proceedings) and who cannot be put in double 


jeopardy. The judge, if he believes them sane, has no recourse 
but to declare them free. It is too soon to know what will 
happen, but I am afraid much sorrow and many tragedies may 
follow in the wake of the immediate, unsupervised release of 
these poor feeble-minded souls, who have neither family nor 
friend to turn to, who cannot work, and who do not know 
how to care for themselves. Ultimately, many of the women 
will turn to prostitution as a way of life and as they get older 
will either be recommitted as venereal contacts, or found 
beaten to death in some sandpit, or strangled in a town dump. 
I just do not like to think what can happen to the men released 
in this sudden unregulated manner. It is most unfortunate for 
both the inmates themselves and the general public that such 
a crisis has come to pass. And noteworthy indeed in the 
passage of time is the fact that about one half of the commit- 
ments of the inmates of the D.D. colony have been found by 
the courts to be procedurally improper. Yet no action or 
criticism whatever has been made of the state officials who 
perpetrated these rank injustices on the most tragic group of 
our citizens: individuals so dull that they do not even know 
they have been deprived of their constitutional rights. 

Until such time as the defective delinquent situation is 
clarified by law, the Parole Board will continue to see those 
recommended by two psychiatrists as "suitable for release," 
will judge each case on its individual merits, releasing those 
that it deems good risks and continuing to help and supervise 
all the D.D. girls who are in the community at the present 

The supervision of the released D.D.'s presents its own 
special problems and is one of the most exacting and time- 
consuming phases of the work of all agents. In a suburb of 
one of our large industrial cities, we had a woman on parole 
who was under a life commitment as a defective delinquent. 
Her name was Henrietta and she came from a primitive back- 

Defective Delinquents 163 

ground. She had grown up in deplorable surroundings. Both 
parents were feeble-minded and promiscuous, and Henrietta 
and her thirteen brothers and sisters had grown up like so 
many little animals scouring the neighborhood for food. They 
dressed in rags and as each child reached school age, the prob- 
lem of privation and sordid living became apparent to the 
authorities. As one child after another reached the age of 
eight or ten years, he or she was committed to one of the state 
schools for the feeble-minded. At times the local police would 
go in with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Chil- 
dren and try to work with the parents. Once or twice the 
home was broken up and both parents went to jail for neglect, 
but even though the children were sent away, the parents 
always semed to get some of them back again when they were 
a little older. 

Henrietta spent six years in an industrial school and did 
benefit to a degree. She learned certain elementary principles 
of personal hygiene which she would never have achieved at 
home. She also learned to accept discipline and to conform 
to routine. At fifteen years of age, she was discharged to her 
mother and worked spasmodically in a mill in a city near her 

Then came Henrietta's first illegitimate pregnancy and 
nothing was done about it. Although her mother felt no 
moral outrage about how many fatherless babies Henrietta 
might produce, by the time the third approached, she decided 
the family finances could stand no more. She went to the local 
welfare board for aid, which investigated the case and per- 
suaded Henrietta to marry a young worker in the street 
department who frankly admitted paternity of the second 
baby as well as the expected third. 

Henrietta was older now, with a husband and a little money 
which he gave her whenever he didn't drink it up on pay 
night. She became bolder and enlarged her sphere of activity. 
First, she would leave home and be gone overnight, then it 


became two or three nights, and finally a week. As is typical 
sometimes among the feeble-minded, the mother (who had 
led such a life for years herself) became highly virtuous and 
rushed to the authorities to complain about her daughter. The 
police found the girl was drinking and hanging around taverns 
in the poorest section of the city. When questioned, Henrietta 
frankly admitted she had not worked an hour or even looked 
for work. She had received "presents" of three dollars each 
for intercourse with men whose names she did not even know, 
in parked cars or in alleys behind the taverns. She admitted 
to having been intimate with eleven different men but this 
would have to be conjectural, since Henrietta never had 
learned to read or write, make change, or tell time, and her 
counting ability was equally vague. At her court hearing, 
however, she appeared well fed and wore an entirely new 
outfit, this indicating that her story was undoubtedly true. 
In place of her dirty housedress she now wore a new black 
satin dress with a sweetheart neckline and long black silk 
fringe over the skirt. Judging by the wrinkles and goo that 
now decorated it, it had been worn all week. It was so dirty 
it could stand alone. 

The judge found her guilty of lewd and lascivious cohabita- 
tion and placed her on probation with definite orders to keep 
in touch with the probation officer, return to her husband, her 
home, and children and to remain out of the city in which she 
had been arrested. 

For some months, Henrietta and her husband seemed to be 
making progress, then with winter came another pregnancy. 
The birth of her fourth child slowed her down to the extent 
that it almost looked as if Henrietta was going to be able to 
keep the home together, under her probation officer's super- 
vision. Late in the spring, however, the probation officer 
heard rumors that Henrietta was drinking again, yet every 
time she went to the house, she found her sober. Warned 
about the rumors, Henrietta vehemently denied them and 

Defective Delinquents 165 

blamed her mother, the policewoman, and everyone else in 
the county. She herself, of course, was always blameless. 

Shortly after that all the protective departments of the big 
mill city were called out during a severe thunderstorm to 
answer a unique call in the center of town. In an alley behind 
a most disreputable bar, two little babies had been found. A 
drain pipe was pouring a torrent of water into their carriage 
and had almost drowned them. Needless to say, the babies 
were Henrietta's. After the fire department had applied 
emergency inhalators, the police rushed the babies to the 
hospital, where the poor little three-month-old had a severe 
struggle but managed to survive, as did his sister. When the 
storm and excitement had passed away, the police located 
Henrietta, her mother, and her four-year-old daughter in the 
cafe. Early in the day they had all walked five miles into 
town from their rural home. When the police found them the 
mother and Henrietta were too drunk even to be questioned 
and the little girl, who was dirty and disheveled from many 
hours of play on the floor, had fallen asleep unnoticed on a 
seat of one of the dark smoky booths. 

The court found Henrietta to be a defective delinquent. 
This meant she would receive a life commitment to prison. 
She would either remain in custody or be under supervision 
until death, unless released by the Probate Court in the district 
from which she was committed. Her mother was found guilty 
of being idle and disorderly and was placed on probation with 
supervision by a probation officer who, by now, had had 
contact with every member of the family. 

The children were returned to Henrietta's husband, and 
since they were judged "neglected children/ 1 the court re- 
tained the power to supervise them. The court did not deprive 
the father of legal custody, but directed him to continue 
working for the city department and to live with his own 
mother, who was willing to care for his four children. The 
husband and children did quite well with his mother, under 


the watchful influence of the probation officer. The husband 
drank very little. Reports, however, from the school doctor 
and other community officials indicated to the probation 
officer that all was not well at the home of Henrietta's mother. 
On investigating, she discovered the mother had been living 
in an incestuous relationship with her fifteen-year-old son for 
several months and, because of the very crowded living con- 
ditions in their tenement, many of the acts took place in front 
of other minor children in the home. 

When the probation officer presented the verified details to 
the court, the judge decided summary action was needed. 
Since the whereabouts of Henrietta's father had been un- 
known for years, the home was broken up. The mother was 
given a five-year sentence and the children were committed 
to the Division of Child Guardianship. 

This case might seem extreme to many people unfamiliar 
with the problems of the underprivileged, but it is far from 
unique. Every city and town has such cases, and society will 
not face up to the situation. Every schoolteacher, clergyman, 
police officer, doctor, and welfare officer is familar with just 
such case histories. They know the true definition of a case 
history that it deals with the entire environment, back- 
ground, and situation of the individual and the number of his 
court appearances, not just the color of his eyes and his 
intelligence quotient. 

By this time Henrietta had served several years, had given 
birth to another baby, and appeared well built up both 
physically and emotionally. She was examined by two psy- 
chiatrists, who found her suitable for parole. After being 
recommended by the superintendent of the institution, she 
was granted her hearing before the Parole Board. We are 
extremely hesitant to release a defective delinquent, but we 
know that some of them, given the proper circumstances, can 
and do adjust and become useful members of society. In this 
case, we proceeded very slowly. After a long and what we 

Defective Delinquents 167 

felt to be a constructive interview at the Board meeting, we 
took an "action pending" vote to allow the field agent to make 
an exhaustive investigation of the home and family situation 
before voting her final release. 

One thing should be made clear. The skilled officer investi- 
gating a case does not bring the Board a report of living con- 
ditions as she herself would desire them, or based on the 
standard of culture and living of the Board members them- 
selves, but, rather, on what would be reasonable to expect as 
decent conditions for a family of the intelligence and financial 
background of the particular case assigned to her. In this 
instance the agent's report, based on interviews with the 
husband, his employer, his mother, the police, and the pro- 
bation officer, as well as the children, indicated to the Board 
that this was the psychological moment for parole. There 
was a home for her to go to. Her husband was not drinking. 
The children were well, and Henrietta's mother, an obviously 
bad influence, was still in the Reformatory and would be 
there for some time to come. We voted her release, and our 
parole agent took on a new girl in the person of Henrietta. 

The agent's actual physical meeting with the girl as an 
individual was new, but, as a seasoned agent, she was really 
just moving into the middle of the case and had thoroughly 
familiarized herself with the entire history before she made 
the home investigation. The agent left Henrietta and her 
prison-born baby with the husband, mother-in-law, and the 
four other children, but strife broke out at once. The divided 
loyalty of the children for the mother and the grandmother 
caused immediate trouble and Henrietta did not have the 
balance or understanding to work out her problem. 

"After all, Fm their mother, and what does their grand- 
mother have to say about it, anyway?" was her attitude, and 
the agent soon saw that Henrietta was inflexible. Another 
series of conferences with interested town, city, and county 
officials brought forth a plan whereby Henrietta and her 


husband moved into a tenement next door with the three 
youngest children. The grandmother, who received Old Age 
Assistance, kept the two older children, and the father con- 
tributed toward their support. 

The next year passed in relative quiet, according to the 
agent's reports, but Henrietta had developed a brawling 
tongue and a chip on her shoulder. She was in constant 
turmoil with her neighbors. Then another baby came along. 
One of the conditions of her parole was that she was never to 
go to the neighboring city, but other parolees told the agent 
of seeing her there on holidays. Henrietta, warned by the 
agent, always vehemently denied the stories, and the agent, 
on her frequent visits, could see no evidence of drinking. 

There came a long, wearying hot spell when all humanity 
was exhausted from the endless repetition of humid days and 
hot nights. An emergency call for the agent came in late one 
afternoon. The agent was in the field and could not be 
located for several hours, so the supervisor took the call. The 
person phoning insisted on remaining anonymous, but the 
details of the complaint sounded too real for the supervisor 
to take chances. She phoned the local police and asked them 
to investigate at once. 

Just about the time the police cruiser arrived at Henrietta's 
home, the agent also happened, by coincidence, to drive up. 
She knew that any parolee as disturbed as was this poor girl 
would probably be upset and at odds with her neighbors after 
the long stretch of unbearable weather. But she found quite 
a different picture. Henrietta was dressed in a new outfit. 
She had a few clothes tied in a box and defiantly told her 
agent and the police that she had met a man in the city recently 
with whom she was going to elope to Maine that afternoon. 
She felt there was more in life for her than "caring for those 
brats." Henrietta was sober. 

The agent indicated to the police that she would like to talk 
to her charge alone, and they tactfully withdrew a short 

Defective Delinquents 169 

distance. Without a masculine audience Henrietta calmed 
down considerably, but she told her agent that if prevented 
from going to Maine that afternoon she would drown all her 
children by holding their heads under water in the river that 
night before her husband came home from work. 

The agent went into the yard and talked to the two oldest 
children. They told her that the night before, when their 
father tried to stop their mother from dressing up to go to the 
city, she had taken a carving knife and held it at the oldest 
boy's throat until her husband grabbed her and threw the 
knife into the river behind the house. With that, the agent 
jumped in her car and raced to a telephone to ask us to issue 
a warrant for Henrietta's recall. The Board was entirely 
familiar with this case and the poor adjustment the parolee 
had been making. With the utter confidence we place in the 
sound judgment of our officers, we issued a warrant at once 
and sent another officer to the house with the necessary papers. 
In the meantime, the local police took Henrietta into custody 
to hold her for safekeeping. The agent collected all the little 
children and took them over to their grandmother's house to 
await the return of the father from work and asked her to tell 
the story to the husband. 

The Parole Board asked for a psychiatric report from the 
institution to which Henrietta was returned. It revealed she 
had deteriorated so seriously that the two psychiatrists signing 
it felt "she was not suitable for parole consideration." It is 
interesting to note as a sequel to this case that in a very short 
time the husband divorced Henrietta and married again just 
as soon as the law permitted. 

The sum total of human wreckage and accumulated suffer- 
ing, grief and woe that is touched upon in this one case history 
is appalling, but what is more appalling to me is that these 
conditions exist, have existed for years, and continue to exist 


in every city and town. The public at large continues to sleep 
smugly between its own clean sheets every night and spend 
their days complaining about high taxes, never giving a 
thought to the total picture of such situations, either in terms 
of moral, human, or purely economic values. There is a 
feeling among many otherwise intelligent and good people 
that crime is none of their business. So long as this attitude 
continues, cases such as Henrietta's will flourish and increase. 
I do not believe the majority of these mental defectives belong 
in prison; I do not believe they should be punished for their 
behavior if they clearly do not know the difference between 
right and wrong. But they form the most seriously disturbing 
disciplinary element in any reformatory, where their very 
presence defeats the purposes for which our reformatories are 
established. Some frank prison officials will admit they like 
to have D.D.'s in their population because they can get them 
to do the heavy drudgery day in and day out, where prisoners 
of normal mentality would revolt. The majority do not belong 
on parole, and their supervision siphons off the time and labors 
of agents from hopeful cases. My point is that prison and 
parole would never enter the picture at all if the community 
took an early and effective hand and accorded these un- 
fortunates permanent custodial care and training before 
they have committed criminal acts. 

People like to close their eyes to unpleasant facts. Never- 
theless, I ask the reader to total up this picture as I have 
sketched it from the maternal grandmother down over a 
twenty-year period. 



Father: Edwin, born 1887, one of a family known in the 
vicinity as a name synonymous with degeneracy. 
Members of the family had intermarried and 
immorality is prevalent. 

Defective Delinquents 171 

Mother: Nettie Jones, born 1890, mentally low. Makes 
no attempt to discipline her children or keep 
them clean. 

1. Henry, born 1906, illegitimate. Brought up by foster 


2. Herbert, born 1914, committed to Division of Child 

Guardianship permanently. 4 years in foster 
home. Now self-sustaining. 

3. Henrietta, born 1916, committed to D.G.G. perma- 

nently. Married, 6 children. 

6 years Industrial School 

3 years Defective Delinquent 

2 years parole 

Returned to D.D. colony in 1949, found to be 

"unsuitable for release." 

4. Margaret, born 1918, committed to D.C.G. 3 illegiti- 

mate children. 8 years in School for Feeble- 

2 years in D.D. colony 

On parole for life, doing well in protected 
environment, supporting self and youngest 

Other 2 children permanently committed to 
the D.C.G. 

5. Robert, born 1920, committed to D.C.G. Deaf-mute, 

will remain in School for Feeble-minded for life. 

6. Hortense, born 1921, committed permanently to 

D.C.G. This girl was the only one of the 
Tompkins children found to be of normal in- 
telligence. She was placed in a foster home 
where she did well, saved $428 before her re- 
lease. She kept in touch with her brothers and 
sisters and took the baby Kenneth to live with 
her. She is now married and living in Florida. 


7. Herman, born 1922, committed to the D.C.G. This 

child is blind in one eye. 

11 years in Training School 

3 years under supervision in community 

Now self-supporting as a laborer. 

8. Alden, born 1923, permanently committed to School 

for Feeble-minded as custodial case. 

9. & 10. Martha, born 1924 (twin Thomas died at birth), 

died 1935. 

11. Zella, born 1926, committed to D.C.G. Has always 

been a patient in School for Feeble-minded. 
Has been released to the community on trial 
visits, but remains only for a few months, as 
she is unemployable and cannot be trained. 

12. William, born 1927, committed to D.C.G. Placed in 

foster home where he was well liked. This boy 
worked here until he was drafted. He is be- 
lieved to be still in the service. Does not contact 
any of his relatives. 12 years foster-home 

13. Myron, born 1930, committed to D.C.G. Adjusted 

well in foster home. Married, 3 children. 
Milkman. 10 years foster-home care. 

14. Kenneth, born 1934, committed to D.C.G. Feeble- 

minded and a crippled foot. After 10 years' 
foster-home care allowed to live with Hortense, 
where he still is. Works regularly as an elevator 
operator in Florida. 

15. Wilhelmina, born 1936, died at birth. 

"All of the children, except Hortense were retarded in 
school and all were low grade mentally" is the statement that 
the judge made the day in 1936 when he found the parents 
guilty of neglect. After making a finding of all of the children 
as neglected children, he found the parents guilty of neglect. 

Defective Delinquents 173 

He sent the mother to the Reformatory for Women and put 
the father on probation, ordering him to pay toward the 
support of his children. 

A check this spring, nearly twenty years later, reveals that 
in all that time the father has contributed a grand total of 
$812.56 toward the support of his children, even though he 
has worked regularly, while the state paid out in cash for 
board, medical care, and clothing for the minor children while 
they were in foster homes $13,869. It is quite impossible to 
reckon what the total cost might be for the maintenance and 
training of this family; but if we take $1000 a year as a fair 
figure to use as the annual cost per patient in one of our special 
training schools and figure that since the date of commitment 
there have been ninety-four years of custodial care already 
extended on this family, we come on the most conservative 
estimate of a figure well over $100,000 already expended by 
the taxpayers. Four members will continue to need custodial 
care as long as they live. 

The story of the Tompkins family points up two facts very 
clearly. First, we see the working out of the theory that if 
feeble-minded children are given proper care early enough 
many of them can be taught to be self-sustaining persons who 
lead useful, happy lives. Second, we see that the only two 
who became delinquent were the two oldest girls, who were 
left in that blighted home environment until they had de- 
veloped into serious behavior problems themselves. Surely 
Henrietta and Margaret would never have been sent to prison 
or given life commitments to the D.D. Colony if they had 
been placed with competent and understanding foster parents 
before they reached adolescence. 


Lifers and the Advisory Board of Pardons 

THE PAROLE BOARD has no jurisdiction over anyone sentenced 
to life in prison. However, after a person has served fifteen 
years of such a sentence, we act as an Advisory Board of 
Pardons on her case and conduct a public hearing on it quite 
different in nature from our usual parole release hearing. The 
fifteen-year hearing is designed to give hope to all prisoners 
and is an essential part of the correctional system. In it the 
Board has no power to release an inmate, but can only make 
its recommendation to the Governor. We review the entire 
case, including the prisoner's behavior and adjustment during 
the past fifteen years, and make a recommendation on clem- 
ency to him. 

Besides holding fifteen-year hearings on lifers, the Parole 
Board acts as an advisory board on all pardon petitions sub- 
mitted to it by the Governor. Such petitions cover a wide 
range of cases, all the way from a newly sentenced murderer 
proposed for pardon for some special reason to an alien who 
may never have served time but has been put on probation 
under a suspended sentence for some minor crime committed 
dozens of years ago and who, now by the terms of the Mc- 
Carran Act, can be deported for it. 

In cases where the law provides for a public hearing on a 
pardon petition, as it does on the fifteen-year hearings, the 
Parole Board must notify certain specific interested public 
officials, among them the district attorney in the county where 
the crime was committed, the chief of police in the town, 
and the attorney general, of the time and place of the hearing. 
The inmate may be represented by counsel and all witnesses 
are sworn. 

Lifers and the Advisory Board of Pardons 175 

If the Governor pardons a person found guilty of murder 
he may release him at once as an entirely free person or he may 
commute his sentence to a lesser one, thereby making him 
eligible for parole consideration and future release. The Gov- 
ernor may also release a prisoner "on parole conditions," which 
actually means that acting with the consent of the council, he 
commutes the sentence and in so doing serves the same 
function as the Parole Board does with other prisoners. Al- 
though it is a most unusual procedure, it has occurred. 

The general misconception that all or most pardons granted 
are granted to murderers probably arises because the news- 
papers only publicize those pardons. Actually, murderers are 
a very small part of the total number of criminals granted 
pardons each year. The parole procedure of releasing a lifer 
whose sentence has been commuted to a lesser one is exactly 
the same as that followed by the Board in the release of any 
other prisoner. It is quite possible that the Governor and 
council could commute a lifer's sentence, so that she would 
immediately be eligible for parole, but that the Parole Board, 
after studying the case, would vote not to release such a 
prisoner. I do not remember that such a situation has come up 
during my service on the Board, but it could easily happen. 

While the parole department only acquires jurisdiction of 
the release or supervision of murderers and other lifers after 
pardoning action by the Governor and Council, we do con- 
trol the release in manslaughter cases. When people think of 
trials that were given sensational publicity, they often forget 
that the judge may have finally accepted the prisoner's plea 
of being guilty of manslaughter rather than proceeding on a 
long-drawn-out court battle on the murder charge, especially 
if the outcome was debatable in view of the evidence available 
to the prosecution. That is why the public may be surprised 
when such a criminal comes up for parole a few years after 
the trial. 

The press glamorizes all women charged with murder; 
those I have seen are a drab, tired group, but when we have 


them under supervision, either on commuted life sentences or 
as direct releases in manslaughter cases, they have done well 
outside and have been little or no trouble after their early 
period of adjustment. We always seem to know these women 
a little better than we do other prisoners, perhaps because 
the awful emotional shock of realizing that they have taken 
a human life makes them reach out and want more help than 
other prisoners do. When they finally reach the moment of 
release, these women are usually timid and apprehensive. 
Many of them have been inside for many years and the world 
has changed greatly since the last time they saw it. Others, 
who have not served so long, are naturally worried about 
how their former associates are going to accept them. Gen- 
erally such a girl wishes to leave the area where her tragedy 
took place and make a whole new start. This makes our part 
in setting up her plan much more important and keeps our 
contact with her much closer. Surprisingly enough, our 
experience has taught us to regard most killers as good parole 
risks. Rarely indeed do women make a habit of repeating 
that offense. 

Not many years ago a young woman was released by the 
Governor on parole conditions, although the Board, acting 
as the Advisory Board of Pardons, had unanimously voted 
against recommending her. However, on Thanksgiving eve, 
she was pardoned. She had neither home nor people to go to, 
and since our division had been given no warning, we had 
neither lodging nor employment available for the girl the 
night of her release. When the parole supervisor made an 
emergency trip to the Reformatory late that evening after she 
had prepared the necessary release papers for the girl to sign, 
she found a rebellious and hostile young lady who refused to 
talk to the parole supervisor. She announced with ire that she 
did not care to leave the institution and that she had neither 
known about nor desired a pardon. When the supervisor 
tried to hand her her release papers, she threw them on the 

Lifers and the Advisory Board of Pardons 177 

floor, so the supervisor left the papers, the girl and the in- 
stitution for the night. The day after the holiday the young 
lady calmed down and decided that she wanted to come out 
after all, and was assigned to an agent, who in due course set 
to work and found her a home and a job. However, her parole 
history was extremely stormy, and all the people who ever had 
to work with her wished for her sake, as well as their own, 
that the Governor had followed the recommendation of the 
Advisory Board of Pardons and had left her in the Reforma- 
tory until she had settled down. 

The previous history of a girl sentenced for manslaughter is 
an extremely important factor in our consideration of whether 
or not to parole her. Had she been previously delinquent? 
Was she alcoholic? If so, did alcohol have a distinct bearing 
on the crime? Was it a crime of passion? Had she been in- 
volved in other situations where crimes of great violence had 
occurred? Had this girl been antisocial all her life, or was this 
episode a single isolated situation? The answers to these 
questions tell us a great deal, but they do not control our 
decision. In a manslaughter case, the girl has usually been 
institutionalized so long that she may have changed com- 
pletely, and her present attitude and her present mental and 
physical condition are decisive. Therefore our final guides 
are the report of the institution, the recommendation of the 
psychiatrist, and what we learn about the girl in our own 

Although the Board never prejudges a case, we always give 
much consideration to women who have taken a life, and 
weeks before we are to see such a woman we are all fully 
familiar with the details of her case and usually have discussed 
the various aspects of it, informally, at the office many times. 
So when we finally saw Marcella at her regular Board hearing 
she was no stranger to any of us. I don't remember any pub- 
licity about her case; I knew nothing about it except what 


was in the official record. Since she admitted her full respon- 
sibility and pleaded guilty in court, the newspapers were 
probably not interested. 

When Marcella walked into the Board room she went 
directly to the chair indicated by the Chairman, sat down 
and answered in a clear voice when he asked her if she was 

Marcella . As he introduced her to each of the Board 

members she turned and looked at each one of us pleasantly. 
She was a mature-looking woman about thirty years old, 
with natural curly black hair which she wore brushed back 
off her forehead; her eyes were bright blue, as was the plain 
gingham dress she wore. The impression she made on all of 
us was as different as possible from what we expected from 
her history, for Marcella was serving a manslaughter sentence 
for having killed her own four little children. 

This comfortable-looking woman had actually admitted to 
killing those four youngsters, and she never denied it. She 
did it during her one and only period of delinquency and, 
heartbroken though she was, she always accepted full blame 
for her act. Marcella had been born in a normal family situa- 
tion and had spent a happy childhood. She finished high 
school without any unusual incidents and soon after married 
a man her parents had not approved of. 

While her marriage lasted she gave birth to four children, 
but she soon discoverd that her parents had been right about 
her husband. He turned out to be an irresponsible loafer, 
always able to keep himself in good clothes somehow, but 
unable to support his family a single week. At first Marcella 
had sympathized with him and believed him when he said he 
was going to land a good job and be a big success next week. 
But next week never came. For years Marcella had struggled 
valiantly trying to do the two jobs of caring for her children 
and working to support them at the same time. 

To add to Marcella's worries, her husband began getting 
into trouble. First the police would come to the house to 

Lifers and the Advisory Board of Pardons 179 

question him; then he would be missing for a day or two; 
then he would dust town for a while, obviously waiting for 
something to blow over. Then he served a six-month sen- 
tence in the House of Correction for being an accessory to a 
burglary in the next town; and finally he received a long 
State Prison sentence for armed robbery. 

Marcella had always been able to get her mother to care 
for her babies when she worked nights, and she took good 
care of them during the day herself. However, as the two old- 
est children reached school age her mother became too old 
and sick to be of any help. Rather than escape from work, 
Marcella threw herself into it more furiously than ever, driv- 
ing herself beyond endurance to earn more to support the 
children and pay a woman to be with them when she was 
working. Then she met a man who started to drive her home 
after work at night. In the beginning his sympathy and ad- 
miration were a tonic to her after the dull drabness of her 
own life. Soon they were spending all their spare time to- 
gether, and Marcella was starting to drink. Their friendship 
only lasted about a month or six weeks. In spite of the relief 
it gave her from her drudgery, the whole relationship troubled 
Marcella keenly, and she made up her mind to leave the man 
and give up drinking completely. When she explained her 
attitude to him one night, they had a serious quarrel and 
she went home alone. Marcella recalls that she had been 
drinking some that night but it could not have been much, 
because only two hours after she left the large restaurant 
where she worked, a neighbor met her in the hallway of her 
house and spoke with her without noticing that she was 

No one will probably ever know exactly what happened 
in there that night. Marcella was overcome by her plight, 
tired and exhausted by overwork and responsibility. Her 
husband was in prison, her mother in failing health, and she 
herself gradually sinking deeper and deeper into debt. Now, 


to cap her torment, she was drinking. She was hysterical over 
the quarrel with the boy friend and she had no place to turn. 
Slowly, after what seemed to her to be hours and hours of 
emotional torment, she decided to commit suicide. She felt it 
would end all her problems and that somebody else would 
then take care of her children and give them a far better life 
than she ever could. 

As soon as Marcella had made her decision, she went to the 
bedroom, straightened the children in their beds, tucked each 
little one in and, without waking them, kissed each one a long 
gentle farewell kiss. Then she made sure that both bedroom 
windows were open and went into the kitchen of the little 
apartment, closing the door behind her. Methodically she 
taped the crack around the kitchen door and tucked rags in 
the large crevice under the door. Next she locked all the 
kitchen windows, and after turning out the lights so that no 
neighbors would observe her, she fumbled around putting 
more rags around the cracks in the ill-fitting double-hung 
windows of the old house. Marcella now had to work quickly 
for she realized that it was almost dawn and her youngest 
child might wake at any moment. She turned on all the 
burners on the gas stove, opened the oven door, and lay down 
on a chair in such a position that she was able to thrust her 
head way into the oven. 

This is all Marcella remembers until late the next afternoon 
when she found herself lying in a hospital bed with nurses 
and doctors working around her and a uniformed policeman 
sitting on a chair by the door. There she learned that a few 
hours after she had turned on the gas a neighbor had noticed 
that the children were not moving around as usual in the 
apartment and that it was time for them to start getting ready 
to go to school. When the neighbor went to the door to 
knock she smelled gas and gave an instant alarm to everyone 
in the house and notified the police. After the door was 
broken down, Marcella was found unconscious on the floor 

Lifers and the Advisory Board of Pardons 181 

where she had fallen. In the children's room, the two young- 
est, whose bed was nearest the kitchen wall, died before they 
were discovered, and the other two died soon after, without 
ever regaining consciousness. 

In spite of all Marcella's precautions she had either failed 
to notice or had completely forgotten that there was one of 
those old circular holes, left by the removal of a stove pipe, 
directly behind the gas stove. The temporary metal cover 
originally placed there had been removed, either by the chil- 
dren or to allow some heat to go to the bedroom from the 
kitchen. In some freak manner, after Marcella turned on the 
gas, a high wind that was blowing that night made the fumes 
siphon directly through that hole into the bedroom, and out 
the open windows. Tragically, the hole was placed so that 
the fumes blew right across the children's faces and left its 
path of death on all four of them, while Marcella herself lay 
unconscious but alive on the floor scarcely three feet from the 
same hole on the other side of the wall. 

Marcella was immediately placed under arrest and held for 
the grand jury, but it was several months before she had 
sufficiently recovered from the horror of her act to be able 
to stand the strain of the trial. Her condition was so serious 
that the presiding justice asked that she be sent to a mental 
hospital for observation. She was found to be sane and the 
court was advised that she be treated as a responsible offender 
because she was sane the night she tried to commit suicide. 
The court proceedings were brief, for Marcella pleaded 
guilty to the charge of manslaughter on four counts. She 
was sentenced to serve four sentences of six years each, the 
sentences to run concurrently. 

Board procedures vary slightly in different states and in 
some it is part of the routine to discuss with the inmate the 
details of the particular crime for which she is then serving 
her sentence. I agree that many times it is highly necessary 
and good parole procedure, but when we saw Marcella that 


day the Board unanimously and spontaneously concluded 
there was no need to go into the past with her. Whether 
this gave us a head start or not, I'll never be able to say, but 
from that moment we overcame her natural fear and began 
building an excellent relationship with her. She was, of 
course, extremely lonely and very timid and insecure at first. 

Her mother had died while she was in prison, so she had 
arranged a plan to go to her only relative, an elderly cousin, 
who had kept in touch with her at the Reformatory and who 
welcomed her after her release. Unfortunately that cousin 
fluttered over her so that poor Marcella was scarcely able 
to take a bath alone at night, much less start an independent 
life of her own. After the agent had made a few visits to 
the over-solicitous cousin, we all could see that the plan was 
not going to work. Since Marcella had found suitable em- 
ployment right away and worked every day, earning very 
good money and paying her way entirely, we knew we could 
work out an alternate plan. We asked her to take a day off 
and come to the office at a time when her agent would be 
there. Here we could all talk freely and Marcella had a 
chance to express her feelings about living with her cousin 
without hurting the good lady's feelings. 

In view of Marcella's unusual history, we all agreed that 
she would be much better if she was miles away from where 
she was known. Since she wanted an occupation which 
would keep her constantly busy, and busy with people, 
where she would never have a chance to think, we decided 
that as soon as she had saved up enough money to support 
herself for a week she could come to Boston and look for 
work herself while she lived in lodgings approved by her 

This plan worked out very nicely. The first winter Mar- 
cella actually had two jobs, one in a factory during the day 
and the other as a fountain girl in a restaurant five nights a 
week. By spring the restaurant managers had discovered 

Lifers and the Advisory Board of Pardons 183 

what a dynamo of energy they had and they prevailed on her 
to give up her stitching job and take charge of the short- 
order department in their very busy downtown restaurant. 

With the first money she had been able to save, Marcella 
had filed suit for divorce from her husband, who was still 
in prison. As he did not contest the suit, she won her divorce 
and became a free woman. 

We all grew well acquainted with this girl, for she dropped 
into the office to see her agent and to talk to us on her days 
off. Never once did she or anyone ever make a reference 
to her tragedy. How much it had marked her life or damaged 
her personality I cannot say because I haven't the slightest 
idea what she was like before it all happened. There were 
times in the first few months when it looked as if her com- 
pulsive drive might work her up to such a pitch that she might 
be just whirling around in space; but that intense zeal for 
work gradually leveled off until she carried a normal work 
load and carried it well. Every time I dropped into the res- 
taurant when she was on duty and had a cup of coffee at 
another girl's station, Marcella found an excuse to leave her 
post and walk by me to say hello. One day at the office she 
asked me if there was any reason why I would not let her wait 
on me. I told her that it had only been out of a wish to save 
her any embarrassment in case any one of the other cus- 
tomers in the restaurant recognized me and might wonder 
how I knew her. That idea had never occurred to her. She 
said she just thought of us all as her friends, and in Mar cellars 
case I'm sure that was true. 

The years rolled by and Marcella worked on in the same 
place. Probably a business day never passed that someone 
from our office did not see her on the way to work or at her 
job. A few months before she was to finish parole she con- 
fided in her agent that she had met a very fine man about her 
age and that they were planning to be married when she 
received her discharge. Her agent asked her why they were 


waiting until then, why didn't they decide to get married in 
the nice summer weather. Marcella hedged a little and said 
no, that she would rather wait. She wanted to be free and 
done. The agent explained that she was sure the Board 
would be happy to see her settled with a home of her own 
and a good husband. But the agent got nowhere with her 
little talk. 

Marcella stayed at her job until the final date of her Good 
Conduct Release. The next noon, as I was walking down the 
long narrow State House corridor to go out to lunch, I met 
our Marcella excitedly rushing in toward our office. After we 
had greeted each other she said breathlessly to me how de- 
lighted she was to see me because she had an extraordinary 
favor to ask. This was a personal favor she was asking of me 
as a friend, since she was no longer a parolee. 

I suggested that she tell me what the favor was before I 
either agreed or declined. Shaking with excitement, she pro- 
duced a postal money order for $200 that she had not been 
able to get cashed without some responsible person to identify 
her. She hoped I would be willing to go to the State House 
post office and tell them that I had known her for many years. 

I was more than pleased to be able to help her. As we 
walked along I asked how she happened to be receiving such 
a sum of money. She explained that it was from the man she 
was to marry, who was in Chicago, and that she was leaving 
by plane that afternoon so they could be married in the 
morning. The postmaster gladly gave her the money when 
I told him she very definitely was the individual whose name 
appeared on the money order. With her money in hand, 
radiantly happy, Marcella dashed off waving me a gay fare- 
well. So that was the last I ever saw or heard of Marcella, 
the parolee who had admitted to taking more lives than any 
other girl I have ever known about. 

Just as I left the post office the postmaster called after me, 
"Say, Miss Sullivan, who is that girl? Marcella ? Mar- 
cella ? What do you suppose makes me think I've heard 

Lifers and the Advisory Board of Pardons 185 

that name somewhere before? Work in your office?" he 

"She was connected with our department for years," I 
replied, "and she is getting married tomorrow." 

"She's excited, just as they all are!" he observed, with a 
wave of his hand, dismissing the topic completely. 

When I went back to the office and told the supervisor and 
her agent the news, we all hoped she would find happiness in 
her new life, wherever it might be, but we all still wonder if 
she has told the man her life's story. Wasn't that probably 
the reason she never would bring him in and ask for permis- 
sion to be married while she was on parole? 


The Helpful Husbands 

ONE OF THE most surprising revelations of my work on the 
Parole Board has been that the surest way for a girl to catch 
a husband is for her to go on parole. When we ask the girls 
at their interviews what they plan to do, the ones without 
husbands invariably say they are going to get married. And 
be they sixty-five years old, toothless, and alcoholic, they do! 

Parole Rule Number 9 states that a girl may not marry 
without the Board's permission and, unless there is a good 
reason for refusing, we are happy to approve a girl's applica- 
tion. Having a man of her own and a home of her own usu- 
ally makes a girl more stable, and her newly acquired partner 
is often the key to a girl's successful parole. 

Some of these husbands are outstandingly helpful. Lay 
people think of ex-convicts as a distinct class, skulking around 
corners and snarling at their fellow men. That is true of only 
the exceptional few, while the great majority who have put 
the past permanently behind them live just like other people, 
and are proud of it. They are, in the main, a happy group, 
for if they are meeting with the approval of their neighbors 
that is success. Some, indeed, are unusually happy, and when 
our girls find husbands it adds tremendously to their sense 
of belonging. 

I can hardly write about the women I have known and 
leave out Eloise, who is one of our most faithful friends; if she 
should ever read this book and not find herself in it she would 
be crestfallen. I shall skip the details of the long history of 
delinquency that she stacked up between the time a trolley 
car ran over her and took off her leg while she was playing 

The Helpful Husbands 187 

truant from school and the time we released her on her last 
parole, when she was serving her fifth commitment on a 
morals charge. 

Eloise is a big girl, pretty, talkative, and extremely ener- 
getic. She had no family and grew up in a long succession 
of foster homes and institutions, yet her irregular childhood 
did not dampen her spirits. Every time she was presented for 
parole her optimism was boundless. She was so familiar with 
the routine of a Board hearing that she came in with a fine 
sales talk each time and was always ready to admit all her 
past faults, though of course she would shade their gravity a 
bit. Then she would go on to list and elaborate on her assets: 
she could get work right away and earn good money; the 
fact that she had only one leg was in no way a liability since 
it interfered with neither her work nor her play. To prove 
it she always brought in her clippings to remind us that she 
once won a prize as a dancer in a competition where no one 
knew that she was handicapped. Lastly, she did not drink. 
All her statements were true but, alas, she did have a long 
list of liabilities, which she conveniently passed over. We 
finally succumbed and voted her a parole, telling her that as 
far as this board was concerned it was her last trial. 

Six weeks after she went out, Eloise appeared at the office 
with a large, handsome Marine sergeant. They had known 
each other three weeks and wanted permission to marry. 
There was nothing hasty in Eloise's plan, this was for keeps. 
They did not even suggest getting a waiver of the five-day 
law. For that matter they were not going to be married for 
a whole week after the Board gave them permission, because 
Johnny was going to give his Eloise a new plastic leg as a 
wedding present and it would not be ready until then. 

The Board went over the necessary routine questions and 
happily gave its consent. Eloise, in her usual forthright man- 
ner, asked us all to come to their wedding. She insisted that 
we were her only old-time friends and Johnny had such a 


large family that she wanted to match it with some evidence 
of permanence and respectability. Our presence, however, 
did seem a little inappropriate to us, so we declined, saying 
that we would not be able to leave our work just then. Eloise 
and Johnny seemed to understand and left the office happy 
to have found each other. But Eloise's invitation had not 
been just a gesture. A week later, at closing time, the bride 
and groom dropped into the parole office to show us how 
really fine they looked. Eloise was wearing a bright red 
taffeta dress and a huge orchid over her heart. First she 
showed us her two rings and then her new plastic leg, which 
was a marvel of camouflage, in color so lifelike that no one 
could tell the real from the artificial; and, best of all, Eloise 
had on a pair of high-heeled shoes, the first pair she had 
ever been able to wear in her life. 

So far this marriage seems to have given Eloise a foundation 
and a goal for a happy life, which she never had before. 
There have been some severe tests, when Johnny was sent out 
of the country during the Korean War and Eloise was alone. 
Yet she avoided serious difficulties during that time, and 
whenever she felt low she would ask for half a day off from 
the munitions plant where she has worked for over five years 
to come to our office on a social call. She would bring the 
presents Johnny had sent her from Japan to show us and 
would read us some of his letters. Now Johnny is back home, 
out of the Service and working in a foundry. Many months 
ago Eloise finished up her parole and was given her Good 
Conduct Release, but she never fails to drop in to see us once 
in a while. Not long ago they both came in, looking fine but 
seeming a little timid about something. After we had covered 
all the usual topics of casual conversation Eloise asked if I 
would mind if they asked a favor. When I assured her that 
I would be delighted, she told me that it was their fourth 
wedding anniversary and, as a present to each other, they 
had just bought a new movie camera that took colored pic- 

The Helpful Husbands 189 

tures. They had come to the office to take my picture as 
their first film so they could have it to show all their friends. 
I agreed as gracefully as I could and said I was sorry they 
had not let me know ahead of time I should like to have 
been in my best dress to be immortalized in color. Eloise 
said it was all right, her friends would understand that I was 
just a working woman. 

The mighty ex-marine swung the desk around, posed me 
in a posture to his liking, with Eloise sitting in a chair by my 
side chatting pleasantly. He mounted another chair in order 
to get the exact focus on the pictures he wanted. Just as he 
was slowly turning off his reel, while his wife and I talked, 
the two male guards who watch out for the Board's safety 
converged on my cubicle to save me from some new kind of 
attack. After a good laugh by everyone, Johnny completed 
his reel. 

I imagine they have as much fun when they show their 
friends that movie as we all did the day Johnny took it; and 
I hope they even have more fun, because it is people like them 
who make us love our work and make us sure it is worth- 

Other types of girls, the ones with strong personalities, 
often need the responsibility of taking care of someone to 
make them settle down, and they are likely to choose the 
most improbable husbands just so they can fill that need. 
Evangeline's story does not have a completely happy ending, 
but it illustrates how important a weak little man can be in 
changing a girl from a defiant misfit to a successful parolee 
from gun moll to quiet housewife and mother. 

The Board first heard of Evangeline when Mr. Smith, her 
grandfather, came to the parole office soon after her commit- 
ment to ask if he could be of any help in preparing for her 
release. Finding a responsible relative who is interested in a 
case always encourages us. His insight and devotion go a long 


way toward guaranteeing a good relationship between the 
family and the Parole Board from the very beginning. 

We meet many fine relatives, but Mr. Smith will always 
stand out in my memory as the individual who best exempli- 
fied the cardinal virtues of faith, hope, and charity. He was 
a fine-looking, well-groomed man in his early sixties. He told 
us his wife had recently died, which left him the only rela- 
tive interested in Evangeline in the difficult years ahead. She, 
in turn, was his only surviving relative now. 

As a top executive of a large shoe factory he traveled so 
much of the time that since his wife's death he had sold 
their house and taken a room in the men's club. Mr. Smith 
sketched his successful business career and told us of his 
happy home life with his competent wife and their very 
promising only child, Charles. He told of the boy's child- 
hood schooling and finally of the opportunity of sending his 
son to college, which he himself had so longed for yet had 
never been able to achieve. Charles had developed into a 
substantial, respected young man who was working his way 
up in the same shoe factory where Mr. Smith was employed, 
but he had married an extremely superficial, though strikingly 
attractive, young woman. 

The marriage was blessed with the birth of Evangeline, 
his only grandchild and the girl in whose interest he had come 
before the Board. However, before he discussed the present, 
he wanted us to hear from him the story which, he felt, gave 
the background for Evangeline's unstable life and explained 
how she had become involved in the crime of armed robbery 
for which she was now committed. 

Slowly, with neither bitterness nor rancor, the grandfather 
told of the great joy and happiness he and his wife expe- 
rienced for the first two years of "little Evie's" childhood. 
He told of the birthday parties and of the holidays that the 
whole family spent together all the nice small things that 
mean so much, especially to grandparents. Then the blow 

The Helpful Husbands 191 

struck without warning. One night on the way home from 
work Charles disappeared completely. There was not a single 
clue as to his whereabouts, nor was any motive for his depart- 
ure ever unearthed. 

His father told us of the horror of the first few nights of 
the active police search, when the newspaper headlines, false 
tips, anonymous letters and phone calls that always accom- 
pany such situations turned life into a nightmare. The 
groundless hope each message aroused was followed by even 
blacker despair, until every member of the family was at the 
brink of nervous exhaustion. Then came the long emptiness 
as the trail grew cold and no new valid information came 
to light. The excitement died down and the police, without 
a single lead to follow, gave up the search. Mr. Smith hired 
private detectives until all his immediate funds were exhausted 
and he mortgaged the family house to pursue even the thin- 
nest thread of hope. He told of long grim trips that he took 
alone to morgues in many distant cities whenever officials had 
an unidentified corpse of the general description of his son. 
Each trip proved futile, and as the winter gave way to spring 
he and his wife consoled themselves with visits to Charles's 
wife and "little Evie," who at this time was completely un- 
aware of the tragedy that was to shadow her entire life. 

Then, Easter Sunday morning, a police officer came to the 
door to tell them that Charles was dead. His body had been 
discovered half hidden under planks and shutters behind an 
old boathouse on an isolated sandstrip almost two hundred 
miles from his home city. There could be no doubt of his 
identity, and the autopsy disclosed that he died of gunshot 
wounds. The coroner's official finding on the case was 
"murder, assailant unknown." No clue was ever found as 
to who shot him or why. Once more Mr. Smith hired private 
detectives to try to help the police, but again they failed. 
The only possible explanation, and it was only rumor, was 
that this isolated stretch of ocean front was used by small-boat 


rumrunners during the winter months. Even that did not 
explain why or how Charles met his death, for none of the 
exhaustive investigations ever linked him with the rum 

Little Evie's mother waited to remarry only a few months 
after her first husband's body had been found. Her second 
husband was a wounded war veteran with no character and 
low standards of conduct. Within a very short time it be- 
came all too apparent that he and his new wife were drinking 
heavily. As the years passed, three other children were bom. 
While the family retreated slowly to less and less desirable 
neighborhoods, the parents neglected the children and 
brawled without letup. Mr. Smith and his wife always kept 
in touch with Evie and never gave up trying to provide her 
with clothing, schooling, and affection even though they saw 
that her parents were rebuffing them and meeting every offer 
with cold hostility. By the time Evie had reached high school, 
she had developed into a blonde of statuesque beauty and 
classic features, but her emotional growth had faltered far 
behind. As she began to skip school and stay out nights, her 
grandparents tried to work with the school authorities and 
had even asked the court to intervene. Sometimes they would 
take Evie to live with them for several weeks at a time, and 
for a while she would be the sweetest, happiest youngster 
that any family could ask for. Then she would go into long 
stretches of being so insolent and grossly vulgar that her 
grandparents could not cope with her. At the end of one of 
these outbursts Evie would always run away and usually 
turn up at her mother's late at night. When the day finally 
came when she did not come home to either house, Mr. Smith 
went to court and asked to have her arrested as a stubborn 

The police located Evie, and when her case was heard she 
acted like such a co-operative young lady, as she had so many 
times before, that the judge allowed her to go on probation, 

The Helpful Husbands 193 

with a stern warning that she should obey her probation 
officer and conform to the plan her grandparents had ar- 
ranged for her. According to that plan, she was to go to a 
private boarding school where she would have no contacts 
with the undesirable acquaintances in her own home neigh- 
borhood or with the people in the city she had always gravi- 
tated to each time she had stayed away before. 

For a while the reports from the school were encouraging 
and her own letters showed that she was in a happy frame of 
mind. Then came the same old story. The school notified 
both the probation officer and the grandparents that Evan- 
geline had run away and told them she had been so rude, 
vulgar, and difficult for three days before she ran away that 
she would not be welcome at the school even if she was 

Once more the Smiths started a dogged search for a loved 
one and maintained it for month after painful month. They 
were older now and the strain of the anxiety wore on them. 
Repeatedly they would ask each other how that handsome 
young girl could protect herself when their Charles could not. 
Where is she? Why does she run away from life? they would 
wonder. Though they had no answers to any of their ques- 
tions, they searched on. 

A year later Evangeline was arrested in a hangout with 
six teen-age boys. The investigation revealed a hoard of loot 
that the gang had accumulated from its burglaries during 
the preceding four months. Silver, radios, electric tools, and 
a veritable arsenal of firearms and ammunition were found 
stored in the old barn where they met to plan their operations 
and to hide out after they had made a strike. Evangeline, now 
eighteen years old, was positively identified during the court 
proceedings as the striking blond gun moll who had been 
so brutal and ruthless during some of the holdups. The court 
found her guilty on four counts of armed robbery and sen- 
tenced her to serve four concurrent sentences of six to eight 


years each. Since the court gave a definite sentence in this 
case, Evangeline had to serve two-thirds of her minimum 
sentence of four years before she was eligible for parole con- 
sideration. Most women offenders are given indeterminate 
sentences and the Board has complete discretion as to when to 
consider paroling those inmates. If, as here, however, a judge 
gives a sentence with a minimum and maximum date, the 
Board has no discretionary powers, and the statute covering 
definite sentences is in force. Judges rarely give very young 
persons or first offenders such severe sentences, but the prose- 
cuting attorney brought out that Evangeline was older than 
any of the six male members of the gang and that as well as 
being the leader she had on all occasions been armed. 

When Mr. Smith first visited the Board, Evangeline's parole 
hearing was still months away, so there was nothing imme- 
diate we could do except outline to him a rather general line 
of procedure, which included his making visits to her and 
encouraging her to be thinking of a constructive plan of what 
she would do when she was released. During her commit- 
ment Evangeline received no letters or visits from her mother, 
her stepfather, or her brother and sisters. The Reformatory 
officers, feeling that insight into the entire family picture 
is valuable in the appraisal and treatment of all individual 
prisoners, tried vainly to locate those members of the family, 
first by mail and then by sending a staff case worker to look 
for them. 

In some cases it seems that the family is more of a liability 
than an asset, and Evangeline always claimed that this was 
true of her mother. As time went on, all of us interested in 
her future came to agree with her, and we excluded all her 
family from the plan except her grandfather. 

One thing Evangeline had in her favor as a parolee was her 
looks. With her natural blond hair, worn in long braids coiled 
around her head, serving as a frame for her fine features, she 
made a splendid appearance. She was slightly taller than 

The Helpful Husbands 195 

average, and she wore her clothes well on her magnificent 
figure. In addition, she was a girl of high average intelligence 
with an outstanding flair for leadership, but she was restless 
and needed constant activity to hold her interest. 

When the day of Evangeline's regular parole hearing fin- 
ally arrived, we had settled on a plan for her to work as the 
phone operator and receptionist in a large private hospital in 
the city near her grandparents' former home. She was to 
live in the hospital and spend her time off visiting Mrs. Martin, 
a fine woman who had been the valued friend and neighbor 
of the Smiths. Since Mrs. Martin had been to see Evangeline 
many times in the past two and a half years, she was fully 
familiar with the background of the case and felt she could 
do a kindness for her old friends. Several of her own children 
were about Evangeline's age and could be stabilizing com- 
panions for her. And finally, because Mr. Smith and Evan- 
geline otherwise would each have only a cramped room to 
live in, she thought her house would make a comfortable and 
attractive place for them to meet. 

Evangeline was released to follow that plan, and all went 
well for a time. The diversified activity of her job and the 
fact that it kept her constantly before the public seemed to fill 
a need within her, and she proved able to do the work 
assigned her so well that her employer was thoroughly pleased 
with her. As time went on, there were a few of the minor 
flare-ups that are to be expected in a person making the ad- 
justment from confinement to living once more in the com- 
munity, but they were all settled by the agent and the em- 
ployer. Mr. Smith and Mrs. Martin had the highest praise 
for her behavior on her days off, and for many months all 
her time was accounted for, which is particularly encour- 
aging in the case of a girl with dual personality like Evange- 
line; for as long as she did not seek her old associates, even 
temporarily, there was hope for her. Then one morning, 
without explanation of any sort, after five months of regular 


living and good work habits, Evangeline got up, dressed 
carefully in her street clothes, and left the hospital on a day 
when she should have reported for work. She did not go to 
Mrs. Martin's house, nor did she try to reach her grandfather. 

After checking every possible location, the agent reported 
the matter to the Board, which, after a reasonable time had 
elapsed and nothing had been heard from her, issued a war- 
rant for her arrest for absconding. Evangeline's case was 
moved from the Active Supervision List to the Warrant 

Six months later we received a teletype message that the 
police of a large city in Maine were holding our girl on a 
vagrancy charge. She had been arrested with a crippled 
little man who claimed to be her husband on the street late 
at night, without funds and with nowhere to go. They had 
no proof of their marriage with them. 

Evangeline, who was about five months pregnant and in 
need of immediate medical attention, admitted to the police 
that she was a parole violator from Massachusetts, so they 
called our office at once to verify that we had an outstanding 
warrant to revoke her parole. Following the customary legal 
procedure, the Maine probation officer, acting in an advisory 
capacity for the court and the police department and the 
Massachusetts parole supervisor, arranged with us by tele- 
phone that Evangeline would be held for a formal court ap- 
pearance in the morning, so that she would have her day in 
court and so the facts of the new arrest would be definitely 
settled. We advised the probation officer that Massachusetts 
would send for Evangeline if Maine did not impose sentence, 
and, if Evangeline would waive extradition and return volun- 
tarily with the officer, we would send for her. Evangeline 
signed the voluntary waiver of extradition before the court 
hearing in the morning, so the judge, having found both her 
and her husband guilty of vagrancy, placed both cases on 
file: the husband's because he had no previous court record, 

The Helpful Husbands 197 

and Evangeline's on the condition that she return to Massa- 
chusetts as a parole violator. 

At the court hearing the judge had only been able to learn 
from the husband that his name was Mr. A. L. Pearl and that 
he claimed he did not know the names of his parents, nor 
have any home, nor even a mailing address. He did maintain 
under oath that he had married Evangeline somewhere in 
Boston six months before, but he was unable to give either the 
name of the officiating Justice of the Peace or the address at 
which the ceremony took place. The judge told him that if 
his story were true he should return to Massachusetts and 
get in touch with our department to start planning and work- 
ing to establish a home for his wife and their expected child. 

The Parole Board sees all inmates returned for violation at 
the next regular Board hearing after their arrest. We allow 
the inmate to tell us her version of the violation and to dis- 
cuss any other pertinent matters before we vote as to how 
much of the remaining time of the sentence she will have 
to serve before we consider her for parole again. However, 
long before we were to see Evangeline, Mr. Pearl arrived in 
the parole office asking for her immediate release. I shall 
never forget my surprise when the receptionist showed in a 
most pathetically appealing little man who in size and person- 
ality resembled nothing so much in all the world as a lepre- 
chaun. He was thin and short, probably no more than about 
five feet tall and at the most about a hundred pounds, and at 
that moment he was dripping wet. Either congenital deform- 
ity or polio had caused a serious twisting and semicrippling of 
his left arm and leg, so that as he came in the door he hobbled 
noticeably and seemed to be constantly about to fall forward. 
His eyes, very dark and set deeply in his little owl-like face, 
never moved off the person he was talking to, and he just held 
that steadfast gaze as if to prevent the other person from 
getting away from him. 

After some preliminary questions which were necessary to 


give us time to send a messenger to the Division of Vital 
Statistics to look up the records and make sure that this man 
really was Evangeline's husband, we resumed the interview 
with an entirely new situation to work with and develop. 
Heretofore Evangeline had been involved in serious crime, a 
gang leader who, as the victim of an insecure and emotionally 
deprived childhood, had gone out to find power and attention 
any way she could. One psychiatrist who had tried to work 
with her had said that her armed robberies had been an attempt 
to inflict upon others the hurt she had experienced. Many 
times she had told us herself that she was always seeking 
affection and happiness and never could find them, and that 
then, after she had done some reckless act to "get even/' she 
would be so afraid that she would run from the situation. 
Always, always escaping, running from life itself, always 
seeking and hoping to find some kind of happiness and security. 

But now, as the interview with Mr. Pearl progressed, we 
learned the story of another lonely life, and the climax of that 
story showed us a new Evangeline. This crooked little man 
sat curled up on the very edge of the chair, with his sharp chin 
held tight in his left hand while his other hand gripped his 
elbow as he talked. 

He remembered nothing of his early childhood, although 
he had been told that as a baby he had been abandoned in a 
trash basket on a city street. He had been brought up in an 
orphanage and had lived in several foster homes while he was 
a "State kid." His very early memories were not too unhappy, 
but as he began to get older the foster parents were always 
complaining to his visitor that he wouldn't work and they 
wouldn't keep him any longer. He was moved from one home 
to another, hardly staying a month in each, so as time went 
on, he said he was changing schools so often that he could not 
keep up and had no friends. Other "State kids" had visits 
from their mothers at Christmas, and some even received 
birthday presents and a letter or a card once in a while, but 
he had never had a visit or a letter in his life. 

The Helpful Husbands 199 

His story went on with grim monotony. Social workers on 
his case were well meaning, but he had a harder time adjusting 
to every foster home and school where he was tried, until one 
day, when he was fifteen years old, he just ran away. Al- 
though he had no plans, was too frail to work, and had no 
money, life was wonderfully exciting at first. Because of his 
crippled condition, motorists always gave him a ride. Many 
of them, on hearing his story, would buy him a meal. After 
many months on the go, hitchhiking back and forth across the 
country, going south in the cold weather and north in the 
summer, he began to tire of the life and wanted some secure 
anchor. It was going to cost money, and he had never been 
able to get more than a few hours' work at a time, shining a 
car or sweeping out an all-night restaurant. Even then no one 
ever gave him money. They paid him with a meal. 

As he roved the continent he met all kinds of people and 
did any number of amazing stunts to keep body and soul 
together. After a while he learned the habits of the other 
homeless wanderers and he developed a method of petty 
stealing for which he never was caught. Late at night, when- 
ever he was in a large town or city, he would go to the local 
skid row and hang around at a street corner or in a drugstore 
until closing time of the barrooms, when all the derelicts 
would be on the street with no money and no liquor. Mr. 
Pearl graphically outlined how he would go and stand alone 
by a lamp post until someone more familiar than he with the 
particular area would finally draw him into conversation and 
suggest that he help them out on a small robbery they were 
plotting. The bums would locate an open window or a tran- 
som over the door of some grocery or variety store, and they 
would boost Mr. Pearl up and into the open window, which 
would have been too narrow for any normal-sized man to go 
through. Once he was inside, he could work leisurely and 
often make a considerable profit by eating all he could hold 
before he collected the cash in the till, the cartons of cig- 


that the gang had ordered him to steal. Then, by piling a few 
boxes under the transom to climb on, he could toss the swag 
out to his confederates who had been waiting hidden in a 
shadow. They would then be off, and he would wait until 
he thought it was safe to drop to the street and go on his own 
way. Sometimes his confederates did not believe that he had 
fairly divided the spoils and would lurk in the dark waiting 
to search him and take everything he had. Twice he was 
badly beaten by accomplices, and once they kicked him 
brutally and left him in a gutter to die because they didn't 
believe he hadn't found the money they were sure had been 
in the store. That time he was hospitalized for several weeks 
and told the police that he had been hitchhiking to California 
when he had been set upon, robbed, and beaten. For some 
unexplained reason the investigating officers did not connect 
him with the robbery of the corner store and felt that he too 
had been a victim of the gang who did that job. 

Mr. Pearl told us that he then began working alone. After 
he arrived in a small city he would look around and locate a 
likely store and visit it a couple of times before coming back 
late at night to rob it. He always left town at once so as to 
be miles away before morning when the break was discovered. 
He would live on the profits of one break as long as he could 
and only do another when he was in need. If he could ever 
find work, he never robbed. 

Then his story came to the climax we all had been waiting 
for. He told us of going to a dingy little variety store in 
Boston, with a counter and a couple of booths where neigh- 
borhood patrons could eat a sandwich, soup, or coffee. Twice 
he went there to eat and to estimate the possibilities of robbing 
it, and on both occasions he saw a magnificent blonde sitting 
quietly alone as if she were waiting for someone. She drank 
cokes and smoked endless cigarettes while she walked over 
and sat at the counter or just stared out of the dirty window. 
Finally she spoke to him and asked him what he was doing 

The Helpful Husbands 201 

When Mr. Pearl came to this part of his story, he took his 
hand from his chin, moved back rather comfortably in the 
chair, and in a calm and relaxed manner told us of the amaze- 
ment and joy that came permanently into his life by his chance 
meeting with Evangeline that night. He still could not believe 
that a beautiful woman would walk with him on the street, 
much less be interested in him, and, in less than a week after 
they had first met, marry him. However, it was true. 

He told us briefly of their discovering that their lives had 
so much in common. Both were always escaping, moving on, 
endlessly hunted, forever expecting the knock at the door as 
the police located either one of them for a past job. 

He thought they must have been married only about ten 
days after Evangeline had left her job in the hospital. Ironic- 
ally enough, they had been married by a Justice of the Peace 
within a quarter of a mile of the gilded dome of the State 
House, where we sat wondering why she had run away and 
what we could have done to stop her. 

We asked him why they had not phoned or come into the 
office, as we ask every girl to do if she finds that she is not 
adjusting or is beginning to slip. He said they talked about it 
and even walked as far as the door one night when they knew 
the office would be closed, and yet they could not bring 
themselves to meet their situation. We asked too if Evangeline 
had talked with her grandfather, Mr. Smith, and his answer 
was just the same. She could not bring herself to face him, 
even though she knew he would be kind and that she was 
causing him agony all the months that he was searching for 

They had moved around among the summer resorts in the 
eastern states, where, content with each other and firm in their 
mutual desire to leave their old lives entirely behind them, 
Evangeline had always been able to find waitress work, until 
her pregnancy became too obvious. Mr. Pearl drew himself 
up with manly dignity to his full five feet as he told us that 


they had found each other. Of course this was only Mr. 
Pearl's version of the story. It might be true or it might be 
a figment of his imagination. But one thing was certain: Evie 
had been away for six months and had not become involved, 
so far as we knew, in any crime like the serious ones of her 
early career. 

Pathetically the poor little man pleaded with us to release 
her at once so his baby could be born at home. We explained 
that we would see his wife in about two weeks and then would 
hear her side of the story, and for the time being we recom- 
mended that he see her at the institution to tell her of his visit 
to us and to discuss with her the wisdom of her letting her 
grandfather know of her marriage. 

Then we outlined a program for him. We explained that 
as sympathetic as we were about his wife and his baby, the 
essential thing for him to do was to find work and establish 
himself in a permanent way of life. He was to keep in touch 
with us and, when he had made suitable arrangements to 
provide for his family, the Board would be most happy to 
review his wife's case. We emphasized how important it was 
for him to live temporarily at some protected lodgings like 
the Salvation Army and to bank his savings, no matter how 
meager, in case he should fall in with any of his previous 
acquaintances who would be likely to rob him of any money 
he had with him. 

Two weeks later, when we saw Evangeline at her revoca- 
tion hearing, we found her a very changed girl, calmer and 
much more mature. Her story was exactly the same as Mr. 
Pearl's, and she had already been in touch with her grand- 
father, who had come to see her and again proved his great- 
heartedness by finding work for Mr. Pearl driving a taxi in 
the city where he lived. Evangeline was quite realistic as we 
talked to her about remaining at the institution until her baby 
was born. A most severe winter had settled in, and she could 
see that it would be many months before she could take care 

The Helpful Husbands 203 

of herself again. She also admitted that she knew nothing of 
child care and that it probably would be better if the baby 
were a couple of months old before she went out. 

After four months we had another visit at the State House 
from Mr. Pearl. He was an entirely new man now. His baby 
had been born (in a hospital outside of the Reformatory) and 
he proudly showed us a picture of the smallest little girl 
imaginable. He had come to Boston to report his progress. 
He was working regularly, had a room with a private family, 
and had saved some money. He then produced a bank book 
to prove his thrift. The deposits had been regular, one dollar 
a week for the past eight weeks, a grand total of eight dollars 
had been saved toward setting up a home. Then we noticed 
that on that very day there was a withdrawal of five dollars. 
When I asked him what that was for, he proudly told me it 
was to pay his train fare to Boston to show us how well he 
had done. For him he had done well, very well indeed. We 
complimented him but went into fiscal matters a little deeper 
to explain that we would be equally happy and encouraged to 
hear from him by mail, which would not take him from his 
work for a full day nor cost over half of all he had been able 
to save in the entire winter. 

In the spring Evangeline and her baby were released and 
went to live in a four-room furnished apartment on the out- 
skirts of a village where her husband's taxi company had trans- 
ferred him. Grandfather and two of his faithful old neighbors 
and Evangeline's agent had worked with Mr. Pearl to provide 
clothes, a crib, a carriage, and the other basic necessities for 
setting up housekeeping. 

This parole was an entirely different matter. No longer 
did Evangeline run away from life. She stayed at home and 
took good care of her husband and baby. Sometimes they 
had quarrels and upsets, but whenever they did Mr. Pearl 
loaded his entire family into the taxi and headed right for 
Boston to have us in the parole office referee his problems for 


him. Usually by the time they reached us the trouble was 
over and the visit boiled down to a friendly chat, with every- 
one in the office admiring the baby, still hardly any bigger 
than a robin though one of the smartest youngsters who had 
ever come into the office. 

By the time Evangeline had earned all her good-behavior 
time reductions, and was finally discharged from parole, she 
had given birth to a big blond baby boy who was named for 
the grandfather. In the years that followed, the agent saw 
Mr. Pearl once in a while in his taxi or saw Evangeline walk- 
ing in town with her children. They all looked fine, and 
though the grandfather had died, one of his old neighbors still 
kept in touch with her. 

Many times the agent who had been on the case discusses 
Evangeline with us. We all agree that she is the perfect 
example of a girl whose adjustment was possible because her 
situation fitted the needs of her personality. She was a natural 
leader and a girl with considerable ability, and having three 
weaker persons depending on her made her feel responsible 
and kept her occupied and using all her capabilities. 

For several years we completely lost touch with the family 
but we did not cease to think of them and wonder how and 
where they were. Then the agent saw a small news item 

telling that, while fishing in Lake M on the opening day 

of the fishing season with two male companions, Mr. A. L. 
Pearl of Massachusetts fell overboard and was drowned. His 
body was not recovered in spite of extensive dragging opera- 
tions. His home address is unknown. When the boat capsized, 
the two survivors swam to shore safely but were unable to 
rescue Mr. Pearl, who, being a cripple, was not a strong 
swimmer and sank almost immediately. 

We often speculate now about Evangeline and wonder 
where she is and if she had gained maturity enough to be able 
to go on without Mr. Pearl to take care of and without Mr. 
Pearl to take care of her. We hope so, because we know it 

The Helpful Husbands 205 

can be done. We see girls like her succeed over and over 
again, but the individual has to have reached the mental and 
moral state where she sincerely wants to "make good." There 
is nothing new about this idea. In the sixteenth century 
Cervantes said, "the woman who is resolved to be respected 
can make herself so, even amid an army of soldiers." Perhaps 
he was right, but I wouldn't go as far as to rephrase Cervantes' 
last line to "amid the Navy in Scollay Square." The point is 
that the girl with a strong will stays away from Scollay 

One of the benefits of the parole supervision statute is that 
the Board has the power to make any rules, stipulations, or 
safeguards it deems necessary in each individual case. It is in 
the Board's power to decide whether a violation of a particular 
rule is a minor or major infraction, and what, if any, action 
shall be taken in each case. 

A person reading the parole rules for the first time may 
find them frivolous, amusing, or even consider some of them 
as an intrusion into the private affairs of the inmate. Senti- 
mental "do-gooders" frequently get frothed up over them. 
I have served ten years as a member of the Board, and I 
wouldn't change a comma in them. Neither would an inmate 
who sincerely wishes to succeed, as many of them have told 
me over and over again. I have talked to over 3500 women 
and have tried to plan with them for their future. Those who 
really want success live in such a way that the rules are not a 
hindering factor in their lives at all. 


Confusion Confounded 

SYLVIA is, as some people would put it, quite a girl. She began 
life on the wrong side of the tracks in a midwestern city 
twenty years before we heard of her. We have known her 
now for four hectic years, and even though she completed 
her parole without having to be returned to the Reformatory, 
I would hardly think of calling our work with her a success 
story. Perhaps I should, for in light of her early accomplish- 
ments, her four years with us must have been very dull stuff. 
Or were they? I am not too sure that Sylvia did not become 
the successful criminal who did not get caught. I have always 

At this point I would hazard a prediction that our Sylvia 
either will turn out to be runner-up to the greatest con woman 
of the century or will die by mistake in one of her fake 
attempts to commit suicide. Either way will be all right with 
her. She will have impressed herself that she is a "big shot" 
by that time. There will be no one around who will care very 
much just what the end is, because she is entirely unable and 
unwilling to remain in a sustained relationship with any other 

Sylvia's physical appearance was nondescript in every way. 
Neither large nor small, tall nor short; one could not call her 
pretty and yet it would be quite unfair to say that she was 
drab. She was just an average American girl that one sees by 
the hundred riding in to work in the subway every morning. 
Sylvia did not even have a wart, an inflection in her voice, or 
an unusual mannerism that could attract one's attention long 
enough to help identify her later on. To go with her color- 
less physical appearance, she had superimposed a very mod- 
erate, bland personality. 

Confusion Confounded 207 

I have come to believe that her complete lack of distinction 
was a studied accomplishment and part of her stock in trade. 
With a record like hers, which practically reared up off the 
paper it was printed on, it was pretty clear that her nonentity 
was a tremendous asset when she went out to do business. 

Let us take a look at that record. It started at the age of 
thirteen, after some skirmishes with her parents over which 
high school she should attend. The parents wanted her to go 
to the school in the neighborhood where she lived, but she had 
other ideas and insisted on going to a school miles away in an 
exclusive and wealthy neighborhood. To finance her plan she 
forged her first check or at least was caught for the first 
time. Her parents at this time were anxious to co-operate with 
the authorities, and when they promised to repay the money 
on a weekly basis, Sylvia was given probation. The court 
instructed her to obey her parents and attend the local high 

But her war with society had started, and she would run 
away from school and absolutely defy her family at home. 
She had been running around to the large hotels with young 
Army officers, staying out nights and dressing like a movie 
star. The child who had forged the thirty-eight-dollar check 
in the fall was by early spring in serious trouble. She an- 
nounced to her mother that she was pregnant and that the 
man responsible, the son of a very prominent family, was 
willing to marry her to avoid the serious consequences he 
foresaw when he discovered she was a minor. 

Partly because the man was just about to be commissioned 
in the Army and partly because by now they were at their 
wits' end, her parents consented to her marriage, and off 
Sylvia and her husband went to the South, where he was to 
be stationed. That is the last that was ever heard of the 
pregnancy and the last the family heard from Sylvia for about 
five years. 

The official record gives no details about the husband except 


he made restitution for checks that she had forged. By the 
time he was sent overseas, he had paid out a grand total of 
$6000 for her. What Sylvia was doing in those distant and 
unusual parts of the country where the checks were drawn 
we don't know. On most occasions she apparently would 
arrive by plane, dressed in simple elegance, 'and go into the 
most expensive and exclusive stores to make a small purchase, 
maybe for about f 16. To pay for it she would present a check 
for some large amount like $131.67, and she always seemed 
to be able to get off, not only with the merchandise but also 
with cash for the balance. She made it a practice to hit two 
or three shops in quick succession and then disappear. Nothing 
more would ever be heard from her in that part of the country. 
Sometimes she went to the trouble of establishing credit by 
opening a bank account of about $10 and then drawing about 
$500 before nightfall. She always paid her hotel bills by 
check and stayed only in the very finest hotels in the country, 
where she could have "the accommodations [she] was used to 
and where [she] would meet [her] own class of people." 

On one occasion in a very small but exclusive hotel in the 
high Rocky Mountains disaster hit her. She was arrested and 
given thirty days in the local jail for the larceny of three 
pairs of stockings at $1.95 each and a portable radio that cost 
$37.50. This must have indeed been humiliating for a lady 
used to juggling much bigger amounts. 

About this time her husband ceased to send money or to* 
answer the letters she sent him, so she was soon back on the 
East Coast, where she was arrested by the federal authorities, 
charged with using the mails to defraud and sentenced to the 
Federal Prison. Once more Sylvia announced she was preg- 
nant so she could land an easy work assignment. Inside she 
became a domineering, loquacious, vulgar, and bothersome 
prisoner, always wanting her own way and never able to 
adjust to the institution program. Before long both the other 
inmates and the institution officers cordially disliked her. 

Confusion Confounded 209 

The authorities found her to be such a chronic and pro- 
ficient liar that they were unable to verify many of her state- 
ments, including the whereabouts of her parents. She kept to 
the story that her father was a high Army officer who was 
overseas, but whose name and address she refused to give in 
order to avoid bringing shame on him and her mother in their 
important position. They were never able to compile a reliable 
history (as is customarily done on all prisoners) because of 
the tissue of lies she created and because she had either never 
worked or else had always used assumed names which were 
impossible to check. 

After it became apparent that her pregnancy was just one 
more figment of her imagination, she turned her full attention 
to playing up her ill health, of which no medical investigation 
could ever find any sign. The psychiatrist really held the key 
to her behavior when he said in part, "Sylvia reveals no mental 
symptoms of psychosis. She definitely has no signs of mental 
disease but she has a psychopathic personality. It is hard to 
believe she will be amenable to persuasion or advice." 

The official record goes on to tell us that after Sylvia had 
served one year and nine months in the Federal Prison she 
was released on parole. It also appears that she complied with 
the conditions of the Federal Parole authorities, at least super- 
ficially, for she received a good-conduct discharge. Three 
months later she was arrested passing a false check in a state 
where she had never been known to operate before. The 
police investigation revealed that she had met a Navy officer 
and gone to live with him the day of her discharge from 
federal parole. They had lived in three different states, in 
each one of which she had assumed his name and looked 
forward to marrying him. The authorities charged them both 
with adultery, but the record did not show how the case had 
been disposed of. Apparently the Navy officer took that 
opportunity to swim right out of her life. 

When next heard from, not too many months later, our 


prize con woman was in Boston, where her exploits were so 
amazing that she hit the front pages of all the papers with 
pictures. This was the big time. She had passed checks in six 
of Boston's stores on the same day, but what really caught 
the city's imagination was her effrontery in going into one of 
the country's most elegant jewelry stores and cashing a rubber 
check big enough for her to walk out with a simple watch 
strap and $116.43 of the store's cash. So, though it was sub- 
stantial enough to make good newspaper copy, Sylvia was 
again tripped up on a comparatively minor transaction. 

That put her into the Charles Street Jail, where she sum- 
moned an attorney to find her Navy officer. But he must have 
asked for duty in Greenland or for a peaceful winter in 
faraway Gander. At any rate, he couldn't be located, though 
Sylvia was careful to tell the Navy authorities that she was 
pregnant and he was the man responsible. 

That summer must have been long and hot for her as she 
languished in jail, unable to raise the heavy bail that the court 
imposed after all six stores she had victimized that same day 
brought separate charges against her. Since she could no 
longer afford to hire an attorney, either, the court appointed 
the Voluntary Defenders to represent her. When the case 
came to trial she was granted one continuance after another 
as she vainly attempted to import witnesses from other states 
who could substantiate her alibis. None of her maneuvers 
worked, and when her mother saw her pictures in the paper 
and contacted the police some truth began to emerge from 
under all her stories. Her parents and a six-year-old sister 
still lived in the area where she had been born. Her father 
was a clothing salesman who did not work too steadily, and 
her mother supplemented the family income by working in 
a delicatessen Saturdays and evenings. When the court found 
Sylvia had lied to them about her parents being in high military 
circles and about every other circumstance of her life, it found 
her guilty of all the charges against her and gave her as severe 
a sentence as was permissible in the situation. 

Confusion Confounded 211 

Immediately she started in on the same rigmarole she had 
followed in the Federal Prison, except that she had to aban- 
don her usual pregnancy report. This time, in order to attract 
attention and avoid work she experimented with two or three 
dramatic attempts at suicide, and consumed huge doses of a 
powerful cleansing fluid which made her violently and noisily 
sick. The suicide attempts subsided as time went on and as 
she gained what was to her a gratifying notoriety with the 
inmate population. Inquiries began to come in from all over 
the country now that her picture had been reprinted in most 
of the big-city newspapers. From all sides the police, follow- 
ing up the complaints of her many victims, wrote for official 
descriptions and identification of her. In an adjoining state 
three warrants were issued on charges of forgery, but a charge 
of using a bad check for $3286 to charter a private plane for 
a week's leisurely vacation trip across the country failed for 
want of adequate identification. Once more the completely 
anonymous lady had acted her part to perfection. J 

The notoriety she acquired inside was just the tonic she 
needed, and she settled down to such a comfortable adjust- 
ment that in no time at all she was recommended for early 
release by the superintendent. She had cultivated the interest 
of a very young and inexperienced chaplain, who was so eager 
for her release that he had been able to persuade a splendid 
woman in his congregation to take her into her home. To- 
gether they had developed a plan for Sylvia's parole that 
looked most constructive, and they presented it as an argu- 
ment for her early consideration. In the meantime Sylvia 
had received a paper about ten feet long from the Chinese 
embassy. Translated, it said that her husband had divorced 
her in Canton, China. The translator was unable to decipher 
whether the lady in question had been present at the court 
proceedings in China. Unlikely as it may sound, I have al- 
ways had a suspicion she might have been. She certainly 
showed no emotion or interest when she heard about the 
document, and our Sylvia certainly could have arranged her 


own transportation and expenses (and probably picked up 
some money in the bargain) if she had had notice of the 
proceedings in advance. 

I recall only one other female offender to whom the Board 
devoted more time and more serious study before paroling 
her than it did to Sylvia. The chances of her completing 
a satisfactory parole appeared to be nil, no matter what pre- 
diction standards were used to evaluate the pro and con 
factors. However, we decided to give her one trial in the 
community. Sylvia never failed to extract some benefit from 
any situation she was in, so, since Masachusetts was the seat 
of culture and learning, she had plucked all the resources of 
the institution dry and earned herself a high school diploma. 
By the time of her hearing before the Board, she was exuding 
culture from every pore of her little body. This, her extreme 
youth, and the three outstanding warrants in the neighboring 
state on which she might have to serve even more time were 
among the reasons that the Board decided to release her, fully 
aware that it was in for hard work. At that time we approved 
the chaplain's tentative plan for her, but before it could go 
into effect we notified the neighboring state with the out- 
standing warrants against her that Sylvia was ready for re- 
lease. Since the police of that state decided to prosecute the 
case, it had its officers at the Reformatory waiting to serve 
their warrants and transport the girl in custody back to its 

Therefore, only a few weeks after the Board had seen 
Sylvia and voted her parole, she was on her way over the state 
line to face her three warrants. True to form, she had thought 
up a perfect set of props for this situation. Her accomplish- 
ments had so impressed the naive chaplain that he too made 
the trip over the state line in his own car, to be with her 
during her courtroom ordeal in case she needed counseling 
in matters spiritual. 

The court procedure turned out to be more of a nuisance 

Contusion Confounded 213 

than an ordeal. Since Sylvia's crimes had been committed 
more than two years before, no one could still be very sure 
about identifying her. By noon she had been acquitted on 
all three counts and she was now free from custody and on 
parole to Massachusetts, with instructions to report to the 
State House in Boston as soon as possible. All worked out 
very nicely for Sylvia, and the chaplain drove her back 
himself. (We have always wondered how his wife liked 
the idea; he has never volunteered to do out of state counsel- 
ing since.) 

As soon as Sylvia was back under our supervision we sent 
her to the fine woman who had offered to give her a home. 
Next day her agent took her out to find work. Here the 
trouble started: she balked at the first interviews and didn't 
stop. Even though she had only $2.86 to her name and had 
not paid her board, she refused every position offered. She 
felt the officer was quite unreasonable not to allow her a two- 
week vacation to find "old friends" and to make her arrange- 
ments to continue her studies. Handling a situation like this 
with tact calls for all an agent's experience and accumulated 
knowledge. She wants, of course, to help every parolee make 
and develop her own plans, but she has to be able to spot the 
difference between a program leading to a sound life in the 
community and one that looks like a shortcut back to a 
previous pattern of behavior. Sylvia's proposal had all the 
trademarks of the latter, and the agent was able to persuade 
her to take a job as an assistant in the diet kitchen of a big hos- 
pital where the personnel director knew all about her record 
and where she would have no reason to handle funds. The 
other employees would know nothing of her history unless 
she told them herself. 

In less than one week's time our new charge dropped into 
the office to pay a social call on any of the Board members 
who happened to be there and to thank them for her release. 
We were a little amazed to see her dressed in a new smartly 


tailored raincoat and hat, and equally surprised to learn that 
she considered herself an artist of no mean ability. She told 
us how pleased she was to find that Boston provided certain 
really adequate courses in the history and background of art 
as well as advanced courses for artists of her caliber. We re- 
ported on both her wardrobe and her new interests to the 
agent. Though the Board would have no way of knowing 
exactly what clothes a girl possessed, the women members 
knew perfectly well that the raincoat Sylvia wore was not 
designed, or even thought of, two years ago when Sylvia went 
inside. When she telephoned the office a week later to say 
she had changed jobs because the hospital work had conflicted 
with the full summer school course in which she had enrolled 
to earn college credits, we were presented with three prob- 

1. Where did she get the money for the course? 

2. How was an entirely self-supporting woman going to 
underwrite a college career? 

3. Her new job was waitress work in a night club, which 
is against parole rules. 

This was the first the Board had heard of Sylvia's proposed 
college career. It did not startle us, because we had become 
used to the truly amazing schemes parolees submit to us every 
day. As long as Sylvia was competent, there was no reason 
not to explore the plan and perhaps work it out. Indeed it 
might even be her salvation; but it would take more innocence 
than good sense to believe or even hope that a woman who 
had stacked up Sylvia's verified court record, to say nothing 
of her unreported exploits, was going to settle down at 
twenty-two and just spend her time with the classics in the 
long winter evenings. Again we relayed our information 
to the agent and asked her to find out just where Sylvia had 
found the cash to pay the tuition to summer school. Of 
course it might turn out that she never had enrolled, and 
this would mean that we would be faced with a situation of 

Confusion Confounded 215 

The next time the agent arrived at the office she was thor- 
oughly perplexed. On a surprise visit she had been unable 
to locate Sylvia and had found Mrs. Martin, her sponsor, most 
disturbed. Sylvia had bought many new clothes, had been 
going to the theater constantly, and the ticket stubs showed 
that she sat only in front row seats. She in general was liv- 
ing on a scale that Mrs. Martin, who was a well-paid executive 
in one of the largest insurance companies in Boston, could 
not afford. Sylvia had not yet paid her one cent of the room 
and board money she had promised before she left the Re- 
formatory. Then there was a matter that Mrs. Martin did 
not like to bring up because she was not sure she understood 
it. Almost every night and all day Sunday a young woman 
came and stayed alone with Sylvia in her very small bedroom. 
Mrs. Martin was sure that this was an unwholesome friend- 
ship and she was concerned about her own daughter of high 
school age. She had begun to wonder if she had been wise 
to take a stranger into her family. Mrs. Martin asked the 
agent to wait until she was a little surer of the facts before 
she did anything, and requested that her complaints be kept 
entirely confidential. 

It did not take long for the agent to find Sylvia. She laid 
the law down to her. Together they found a suitable job 
where Sylvia could earn good money as a waitress in a first- 
class busy restaurant. Sylvia gave her notice at the night club 
where she had been working and the agent warned her that 
if she wished to remain out in the community she would have 
to pay her board in full and comply with all Mrs. Martin's 
household rules. Lastly, the agent told her frankly that she 
had begun to distrust her and that on the next weekly visit 
she would expect a full accounting of every cent she had 
earned in the three weeks she had been out and receipts and 
sales slips on any purchases she made in the future. 

A few days later the agent took occasion to stop in for 
lunch at the restaurant where Sylvia was working. She could 
see by the efficient way the girl was doing her job that she had 


been well trained as a waitress and should be able to earn 
big money on that job. She also noticed that Sylvia was 
wearing a sparkling new diamond ring on her engagement 
finger. On her next visit, when she asked about the ring, 
Sylvia disposed of the topic with her usual calm. Oh, yes. 
She had forgotten to mention that she was now engaged to 
a young exchange student from Norway who sat next to her 
in her Abnormal Psychology course at summer school. The 
agent cautioned her about Parole Rule Number 9, which 
required her to tell her Norwegian about her parole status 
before the Board could give her permission to marry him. 

The next problem for the agent to iron out was Sylvia's 
financial situation. When Sylvia forgot to include the $97 
for summer school tuition, for which the agent had seen a 
receipt on her previous visit, it looked as if the girl had got 
in over her head. But no, never Sylvia. She jogged her 
memory and recalled that it had been an outright gift from 
a new woman friend, the student counselor at the summer 
school, who was so interested in her adjustment that she had 
wanted to help her with her education. She was the young 
woman who had spent the week end with Sylvia at Mrs. 
Martin's house. 

By the time of the agent's next visit, Mrs. Martin reported 
that she had taken all she possibly could and completely real- 
ized her mistake. The Norwegian, in the meantime, had 
vanished out of Sylvia's life because she had decided she "did 
not care for him in that way," so no more was seen of the 
big diamond ring. 

At any time during this period the Board could have re- 
turned Sylvia to the Reformatory, since she had obviously 
broken several rules; but in the light of her previous exploits 
these skirmishes seemed minor infractions, and the Board 
concurred with the agent's recommendation to continue 
working with the girl in the community. 

Under Rule Number 4 the Board has a right to limit the 

Confusion Confounded 217 

friendship of any parolee with a questionable character, and 
it is often a thorny problem for us to decide whether or not 
the individual under discussion is a disturbing influence. We 
go a long way to foster and encourage any friendship, even of 
lonely individuals, that may be of any remote benefit to the 
girl. In trying to learn about this new young woman friend 
who had been living with Sylvia we proceeded with great 
tact and caution. In about a week's time the agent had ar- 
ranged a joint conference of Board, supervisor, agent, Sylvia, 
and her friend. The Board has always felt that a conference 
of all concerned with a problem has an extremely beneficial 
effect, and that a frank and thorough discussion in which 
everyone could say what was bothering him and what he 
wanted has helped many a troubled girl back on the path 
to a successful parole. This is so, however, only if each is 
sincere and working for a common purpose. That was not 
to be the case this time. 

Little or nothing came from the interview except that the 
student counselor admitted that she had loaned Sylvia large 
sums of money ever since she had met her. The Chairman 
thanked her for coming but asked her in the name of the 
Board to let Sylvia support herself in the future and suggested 
that she sit down with the agent to make detailed arrange- 
ments for Sylvia to repay the loans in regular installments. 
The agent noted in the running record for the day how un- 
satisfactory that interview was. The woman seemed much 
more anxious to cater to Sylvia's whims than to work for 
her long-term improvement, but she did agree not to lend 
her any more money. 

Sylvia cut her losses with accustomed speed and in less than 
a week's time came into the office dripping with emotion. 
Ever since her mother had seen her picture in the paper, 
mother and daughter had been corresponding, and now 
Sylvia had a wire that her mother was seriously sick and a 
money order to cover the cost of her transportation to her 


mother's bedside. None of us really trusted Sylvia, but, if 
she was telling the truth, turning her down might do her 
an irreparable wrong. We decided to allow her to fly to the 
midwestern city where her home was, on the condition that 
she report to the state parole office there in person and ask 
that office to notify us of the time and date of her arrival. 
She was to tell them her home address and all other relevant 
details, and was to stay no longer than a week, since people 
in her family's economic situation cannot support a nonpay- 
ing guest long, no matter how dire the emergency. As an 
added check we wrote to the state parole office about her 
expected visit, which was not under the compact regulations 
but only a special privilege because of critical illness. 

Off to the Midwest she flew. Days passed. One week, then 
two, and no Sylvia. About the middle of the third week, just 
as the agent and the Board were discussing the advisability of 
issuing a warrant for her arrest, a phone call came from the 
other state's parole office. She was there in person asking 
permission to remain and care for her father and her little sister 
while her mother was in the hospital undergoing major sur- 
gery. The request sounded reasonable, we hoped that being 
with her family and feeling responsible for her sister, then 
only eight years old, might even do her some good, and so we 
granted it. A little later she asked if she could remain in her 
home city permanently. 

Our next step under the compact was to forward the re- 
quest with a full copy of Sylvia's court history, institution 
reports, and parole running record to the home state, which, 
in turn, investigated the conditions for parole there. On 
the basis of all the information, the home state accepted. 
From then on according to proper compact procedure, it 
handled the routine details and sent us a summary every few 
months. Theoretically, after a transfer under the compact 
our interest in a parolee becomes only nominal, and in most 
cases that is true. But not with Sylvia: the correspondence 

Confusion Confounded 219 

was so heavy it actually arrived in bundle form rather than by 

When the mother came home from the hospital, friction 
and suspicion sprang up between her and Sylvia. Soon Sylvia 
took an overdose of sleeping pills and was taken to the hos- 
pital in her town. After a protracted convalescence, during 
which her still frail mother had to wait on her, Sylvia an- 
nounced that she was happy to be alive so she could dedicate 
her life to her family, especially to her dear little sister. Later 
a report came that her mother had died suddenly, and soon 
after that her father began complaining that Sylvia was never 
at home to get his supper. She was after an education again 
and had registered and paid the full tuition for a college 
semester and had hired a baby-sitter for her little sister. The 
reports we received about the courses she was taking were 
confused, so all we could be sure of was that Philosophy and 
Group Guidance were among them. Next, the college staff 
felt that her program was too heavy for such a frail girl, so 
a sympathetic professor arranged a subsidy for her. About 
that time we received a letter from Sylvia herself, asking per- 
mission to marry her "interested professor," who was an 
eminent man in the Old World but was here as a "displaced 

However, before the formal request for permission to 
marry came through under the compact, we received a report 
that there had been a gas explosion in the laboratory where 
Sylvia was working alone after hours, and that although she 
was in a serious state of shock at a local hospital, she would 
survive. The report made no mention of the impending mar- 
riage, and we never heard any more of the "displaced pro- 
fessor." The next year passed in a similar state of confusion, 
with Sylvia valiantly resisting every effort made to get her 
to work at suitable employment. There were months on end 
when she never went near her father and her little sister, 
and then she would trot back in rimes of crises. I have always 


suspected she used them only when she needed an alibi. 

After another year had gone by she started on a new 
campaign of learning, with her emphasis on art and her chief 
interest in portrait work. But that did not last long, and she 
turned next to raising and breeding thoroughbred dogs. This 
came to a sudden end with a fire in which all the dogs were 
lost and Sylvia was once more pictured in the press for her 
valiant but futile efforts to save their lives. From time to 
time the home state would report that Sylvia had a fine posi- 
tion doing waitress work in a famous restaurant, but these 
reports were few and infrequent. Once, when she had asked 
for psychiatric help, the parole authorities had been glad to 
allow her to go to a first-class hospital, on the provision that 
they should be advised of the outcome. Unfortunately there 
was no constructive outcome; in fact, the doctor's summary 
almost matched the one given five years before at the Federal 

Next Sylvia found herself a steady job for the first time in 
her life. She was reservation clerk at the central office of one 
of the large transcontinental airways. It seemed incredible 
that a company so reliable should hire staff members without 
checking their criminal records but there she was, and under 
her right name. Massachusetts had no reason to interfere, 
since the details of employment come under the supervision 
of the home state, which probably felt that though Sylvia 
never followed the letter of the parole rules, she had been 
in the community for several years without committing any 
known major violation. 

That summer, on the very hottest day, we received a tele- 
gram requesting permission for Sylvia, who had by that time 
worked for the airline long enough to earn a vacation, to fly 
to Mexico for a week and then to the Canadian Rockies. 
There, she and her friend the student counselor, who was 
planning to spend her vacation with her, would visit the lat- 
ter's parents at their mountain lodge. Since in Mexico they 

Confusion Confounded 221 

were going to be the guests of a wealthy oil man, and since 
Sylvia's job provided her with free plane fare, her only ex- 
penses would be the transportation tax on her trips. 

This was the end. Not one member of the Board thought 
there was any excuse for such a trip, and we quickly dis- 
patched a telegram saying, "Request denied under Rule 5," 
which forbids a parolee to leave her home state without the 
Board's permission. Maybe we were unfair; perhaps the after- 
noon was too hot in our narrow little office in the back of 
the State House, but somehow when that telegram hit me I 
could only think of the justifiable wrath of the hard-working 
taxpayers who pay my salary for my judgment in assisting 
women to adjust in the community. That junket was too 

Our record shows that Sylvia had worked steadily for the 
airline and never received more than $42 a week. Yet not 
too long after her discharge from parole she dropped into our 
Boston office just to pay a friendly call and to thank us all for 
what we had done for her. She told us then that she had 
just flown with her little sister, whom she wanted to treat 
to a few meals in the better Boston restaurants. They were 
stopping for a few days in an exclusive Back Bay hotel where 
they had an apartment and were here to say hello to "old 
friends" before they hopped to Bermuda for their vacation. 
Sylvia wore quiet, exquisitely simple clothes and large bone- 
rimmed dark glasses. The little sister spoke only once and 
that was to tell us they had a new light blue car. 

Sylvia talked on at some length about her blighted roman- 
ces and said she was "much too nice a girl for the majority 
of men she met." The psychiatrist at the Federal Prison who 
diagnosed her as a psychopathic personality who will not be 
amenable to persuasion or advice certainly was right. Sylvia 
has not been so since she was a child, and she is not going to 
be so in the future. In spite of all her pleasing ways (and she 
has many likable and attractive characteristics) I am very 


much afraid that if Sylvia ever came before me again at a 
parole hearing I would have to vote her "maximum," for I do 
not see how I could feel that there ever will be "reasonable 
probability that if such a prisoner is released, he (she) will 
live and remain at liberty without violating the law, and that 
his (her) release is not compatible with the welfare of so- 
ciety" as it specifically says in the statute, which I took an 
oath to uphold. 

We later received a request from a sister state asking us to 
forward them a summary of our contact with Sylvia. The 
teletype message relayed by Division of Public Safety read: 



Looking Ahead 

As I WRITE about parole and illustrate what it can do to pro- 
mote the interests of both the individual and the community, 
it is only fair to give a few practical ideas on how to improve 
our releasing program. The whole idea of putting criminals 
in prison is only about two hundred years old. Before that 
dungeons were reserved for the political enemies of the 
government, and criminals were punished by being flogged, 
mutilated, sent to the galleys, exiled, or just hanged. 

Then came a period of a hundred years when society was 
satisfied to throw them in prison and forget about them. 
Punishment and retribution, they thought, were the answer 
to crime. The abuses of that system were horrible and 
history tells us it did not answer the criminal problem. In 
fact it returned criminals to society far more bitter and 
hostile than when they were incarcerated. 

Around 1900 the emphasis in research into crime shifted 
from treatment to prevention. People began to ask, "Why 
did this prisoner commit his crime? What makes him act this 
way? 7 ' Sometimes no one knows, but in some cases very 
definite explanations have come to light, and with these cases 
the progress has been most encouraging. Thus when we can 
find the cause for an offender's behavior, we help him and 
we help protect the community. 

This is just one of the measures we can take that overlap 
in protecting society and reforming the criminal, so let me 
start there and say that to satisfy both of them the great em- 
phasis should be on preventive work. Signs of instability 
that mark the potential criminal show early in her childhood, 


but they are usually ignored. All too often that instability 
is caused by a disturbed home environment, so the parents 
will not even recognize it. But the school authorities should. 
They have a real opportunity to help a child who is wavering 
on the verge of delinquency. 

Even after a girl is out of school, she does not become 
a criminal all of a sudden, and why should the community 
wait until the harm is done before helping her? Friends know 
when the strains of a situation are driving a woman toward 
antisocial behavior, and there are usually signs obvious enough 
even for neighbors and casual acquaintances to spot. One of 
them is alcoholism. Others are neglect of home responsibil- 
ities, irregular living, and unexplained absences. The guid- 
ance and advice that a social worker can give at that early 
stage can frequently lead a girl back to a healthy life, whereas 
waiting until later will make the process of rehabilitation 
much harder and the prospects of success much dimmer. 
Unfortunately families, neighbors, and friends usually wait 
and hope and do nothing until after an explosion. 

The second important preventive measure is a greatly ex- 
panded and improved probation program. Probation agents 
now have so many cases that they often have no time to work 
with their most serious cases, and most do not even have time 
to make any calls, but have to require their probationers to 
come in to report to them. That procedure is clearly unsatis- 
factory and frustrates the whole purpose of probation. 

Theoretically, a first offender or anyone who has com- 
mitted a crime under extenuating circumstances can, in the 
long run, become a safer and a more useful member of society 
if she continues to live in the community under firm regula- 
tion than she can if she is separated from her family and en- 
vironment and sent to an institution. If a mother is sentenced 
to prison, her family must usually be broken up, and the State 
generally has to bear the expense not only of keeping the 
mother in the institution but of maintaining the children in 

Looking Ahead 225 

foster homes. As long as it is in keeping with the best interests 
of society, how much more satisfactory it is to allow the 
girl to remain at home and to help her become a useful and 
stable member of her community. 

For the theory to work, the regulation must be enforced 
and the probation officers must be able to give the girl guid- 
ance that will help her stand on her own feet by the end of 
her probation. That kind of assistance cannot be halfhearted. 
It must often include psychiatric diagnosis and therapy ade- 
quate to rehabilitate girls with nervous disorders that already 
have an ominous head start. It also, of course, requires the 
constant and forceful supervision of probation agents with 
enough time to devote to the problems of their clients. 

At first glance such a program looks like a lot of added 
state bureaucracy, but in the long run it is almost sure to save 
money. In the first place it will keep a lot of people out of 
institutions who never ought to be there anyway. And the 
expense of keeping each girl in the Reformatory is $2564.18 
a year compared to $93 per year to keep her on parole. 
Second, it will save all the subsidiary costs of families that 
have to be taken care of when the mother is sent away. 
Third, it will displace some of the work now done by the 
parole authorities. And, fourth, I am quite sure that it will 
help prevent crime by keeping girls who are not real crim- 
inals from coming in contact with the hardened recidivists 
they would meet in prison. 

Another step that would save both to protect society and 
reform the individual would be to increase the number of 
policemen on local beats. For the past fifteen or twenty years 
the theory has been that cruising cars were so efficient that 
they should displace the well-known figure of the cop who 
knows all the people on the block. During this period the 
local beat has come to be looked at as the worst job on the 
police force, and it has been sadly neglected. 

Now the pendulum is beginning to swing the other way, 


and both the authorities and the public are realizing that an 
officer familiar with the people he is policing can do a much 
better job than unknown policemen cruising large areas in 
prowl cars can of discovering trouble before it starts and of 
making sure that gangs of boys don't turn into gangs of 
delinquents. We need both beat and prowl forces in our 
large cities. 

There is one specialized job I feel I must mention, and 
that is regulating carnivals and warning the public about them. 
Those traveling amusement shows present one of the most 
serious threats to the moral health of any community, yet 
well-meaning people often invite them into town to entertain 
their own children for the sake of raising a few hundred dol- 
lars for some worthy cause. Almost without exception, those 
shows are staffed by derelicts, drug users and pushers, per- 
verts, bail jumpers, and runaway prisoners who have sunk 
so low they wouldn't even dare try to live on skid row. All 
too often impressionable teen-agers get their first contact with 
a world they have never known or even suspected from these 
outcasts. Some, dazzled by the shoddy glamour of the bright 
lights, join up and leave town and are soon enmeshed in 
serious delinquency. Others are introduced to drugs and per- 
version and started on a way of life from which they will 
not easily be turned. Because of local by-laws, or total lack 
of these today, adequate supervision of the traveling enter- 
prises is impossible. This is one of the more obvious of the 
many worthwhile jobs that expanded forces of local patrol- 
men could and should assume. 

From my experience I am quite sure, although I cannot 
prove it, that these preventive measures would cut down our 
prison population drastically and make for a much healthier 
community. Prevention can never be one hundred per cent 
effective, and certain women will inevitably end up in prison, 
so let us look next at some constructive improvements in the 
preparation for release of prisoners. There the great need 

Looking Ahead 227 

(and I am certainly far from the first to mention it) is for ade- 
quate psychiatric service in all phases of crime work. Since 
the legal and moral responsibility of each individual depends 
3n his mental capacity, and imbecility and insanity are condi- 
rions which affect his legal responsibility, the services of 
rrained mental health experts are essential not only during 
:he police investigation and trial but constantly during in- 

These specialists should work with the girls who need help 
and many, many do. I have said before that most criminals 
ire unstable, but that fact bears repeating and emphasizing, 
md it is especially true of the girls who drift into crime 
ihrough alcoholism and the use of drugs. Remember that the 
jirls who display serious behavior difficulties have been un- 
ible to adjust to life's problems in their own immediate en- 
vironment. Those problems, our case histories tell us, have 
existed for years while the girls have reacted to them by 
repeating the same pattern of antisocial behavior over and 
3ver again. In these cases the institution offers the golden 
opportunity for study, analysis, and treatment. 

The psychiatrists should make definite recommendations 
:o the Parole Board on the fitness of candidates for release. 
Today many of the girls presented at parole hearings have 
lever been seen by a psychiatrist, and those who have are 
nany times given reports worded in such carefully hedged 
:erms that they are of little if any guidance to the Board. 

The doctors are not to blame. Psychiatric treatment and 
liagnosis demand time and continued observation and study, 
ifet there is not one single full-time psychiatrist on the pay- 
oll of the Department of Correction of the Commonwealth 
>f Massachusetts! Some states are a little better off, but all 
ire far below the level of what should be minimum require- 
nents. In Massachusetts various psychiatrists are hired by the 
lay, an expensive method which destroys the continuity 
ibsolutely essential to any psychiatric treatment. Hiring doc- 


tors is expensive. They are highly paid experts, and the Stat< 
must offer a pay scale high enough to attract good men. Fe^ 
items in the budget would pay off so well, nevertheless. 

Another aspect of prison administration that needs reforn 
is the treatment of recidivists, the hardened criminals whc 
have served time before and who, unfortunately, probabl) 
will again. They are one of the most serious sources of mora 
contamination in any institution. They "know the ropes/ 
but they have failed. In order to save face (an understandabl< 
human trait) they lie and blame everybody else for theij 
predicament. They cause unrest and suspicion at the sarm 
time they are spawning delinquency among the other inmates 
especially those who are about to go out. 

These girls are an entirely separate problem, since they dc 
not respond to any efforts made to rehabilitate them. The> 
should be in separate quarters, isolated from first offender! 
and accidental and occasional offenders so they cannot cor- 
rupt them. 

We need some reform in our releasing procedures, too 
Good sense and orderly procedure dictate that each state 
should have one unified release system that can be easil) 
understood by the public, by social agencies, by the interestec 
departments of the state, and by the inmates themselves. Since 
I am most familiar with Massachusetts, permit me to cite my 
own state as a horrible example. Here, instead of one we have 
five distinct ways of releasing a person: 

1. All the women who are sent to the Reformatory foi 
drunkenness receive a one-year sentence and are released b> 
the State Commissioner of Correction. They receive little oj 
no supervision. 

2. Drug addicts serving voluntary commitments become 
eligible for release after an indeterminate time and are alsc 
released by the State Commissioner of Correction, again with 
little supervision. 

3. Women sentenced to county jails for misdemeanors an 

Looking Ahead 229 

released by the County Commissioners. They are supervised 
and given as much assistance as possible by the conscientious 
but terribly overworked probation officers attached to the 
county courts that sentenced the girls in the first place. 

4. Suffolk County (Boston), with its large Deer Island 
House of Correction, has special releasing procedures under 
the jurisdiction of the Penal Institutions Commissioner of the 
City of Boston. 

5. All male prisoners (except lifers) from State Prison, the 
Concord Reformatory, Norfolk Prison Colony, and the State 
Farm, and all female prisoners (except lifers) from the 
Reformatory for Women at Sherborn are released by the 
Massachusetts Parole Board. 

How anyone is supposed to keep that all straight I do not 
know. But even more important than cutting through the 
confusion is the fact that a single method of release would 
unify the standards governing it. All of these measures of re- 
form can be accomplished with little change in the law or in 
the basic outlines of the state's correctional system. 


It's Up to You 

THERE is one thing certain about parole work it is never 
dull! Often it is exciting, grimly tragic, and sometimes very 
amusing. Our official mail provides us with some humorous 
episodes, for it is the privilege of all inmates to write un- 
censored letters to the Parole Board, as well as to the Com- 
missioner of Correction, or the Governor. We get a volume 
of daily mail, which we conscientiously read and promptly 
acknowledge and which establishes a hopeful feeling of in- 
dividual recourse, helpful to inmate and Board alike. Some 
women are forceful letter writers, expressing themselves as 
well, and better, in a letter than at an interview. 

Occasionally, a tensely nervous girl realizes she might have 
made a better impression at the Board hearing and will re- 
member an important factor which might alter the Board's 
decision. At other times, she may fly off the handle at the 
hearing and, deeply regretting it later, may wish to apologize. 
Any prisoner is free to write to us; we feel this policy pro- 
motes a better understanding. 

One of our prisoners, whom we shall call Cynthia wrote 
such a letter. Cynthia is a buxom, attractive redhead of thirty- 
five who has had eleven arrests for drunkenness, adultery, 
and lewdness, and finally the theft of an automobile. Her 
voluble, husky, alcoholic husband Fred has been in and out 
of the county jail every summer, because it is cool, and the 
State Farm every winter, because it is warm. Fred calls on us 
twice a year at the State House, usually on the day he is 
released. He is sober, rested up, well dressed and, like most 
chronic alcoholics, he blames everybody and everything for 

Its Up to You 231 

his situation. It is the veteran's agent, the Chief of Police, 
the landlady, or even the Parole Board, who have wronged 
Fred. Anyhow, he has learned his lesson this time, and he 
is never going to get in wrong again. No, sir! 

There is no such thing as a completely hopeless case. How- 
ever, Cynthia and Fred, as husband and wife, have been heavy 
drinkers for fifteen years and the future is not too promising. 
They both are good-looking, likable, and lighthearted, and 
we always have a pleasant visit with them. They appear as 
sincere in assuming their family responsibilities as if it were 
their first offense and they had been away only for a night. 
When you see and listen to this handsome, hearty couple, you 
believe the world is at their feet. Not until you read their 
case histories does anything dim the picture. 

Their effervescent personalities are really quite unusual. 
This last letter from Cynthia I quote in her own words. Of 
course, her grammar might startle the king, but I think she 
tells her own story better than I can. 

Women's Reformatory 

My dear Parole Board Members: 

Through a complimentary opinion of you, and for what you 
have already done for we girls at "Framingham," I am taking the 
opportunity of writing to you to plead for consideration of my 
case. All of which is greatly confused and rather malignant. 
I shall briefly try to relate to you so you will be able to grasp 
conditions and form your own opinion of which I am assured 
will be most satisfactory. 

I have done considerable time here, generally about eight years 
in all. When I was last released, I broke my parole and got ar- 
rested and the judge gave me regretfully another sentence. From 
this, shortly after returning to the institution, I escaped as I had 
some unfinished private business to attend to. However, I my- 
self walked into the Police Station and gave myself up, therefore 
causing no trouble to the state and no necessity for a costly 


search. With due consideration of this, I believe the court 
and now the Board should be more lenient and have put 
me on probation or on file rather than giving me two years 

Now, please, I beg you to consider this. I have had my seven 
children taken and are on the state and as you see with eight 
years here and seven pregnant, my husband and I have never 
lived. We have both made mistakes and we both repent and 
would like to hold the reins we were cut off from. 

He has now been released and if you will release me now, I 
am sure that within a year, we will again be a proud mother and 
father to be admired by society. I plead with you again that I 
may be released soon so that we may start "marital and family 

May God bless you always for the fine work you are doing! 

I remain, 


Many of our letters do us a world of good too. A wee 
thank-you card from a timid girl completing parole sometimes 
means more to us than anyone can imagine. We get a sur- 
prising number of carefully thought out, kindly expressions of 
heartfelt gratitude. Even the men members of the Parole 
Board will interrupt their busiest day to read a thank-you 
note, always commenting, "Well isn't that nice to hear!" 

One of the most welcome notes we ever received came 
from a cultured woman who became enmeshed in grave 
financial discrepancies. She was given much publicity during 
her trial and at the time of her commitment because of her 
prominent social position in the community. Because of it, 
she became apprehensive and distrustful of the whole release 
setup and feared the reaction of the public to her release, just 
as she feared the Board and her agent. Nevertheless such an 
intelligent prisoner, when she does start to co-operate with her 
agent, gets on so well that after her Good Conduct Release, 
she is apt to miss her agent's regular visits. This woman's 
words in thanking us for our help during her four-year parole 

If s Up to You 233 

we esteem as the highest praise we ever received. I quote in 
part: "The courtesy, friendliness and comfort I have experi- 
enced on parole will always be happy memories to me. I 
regret they shall come to an end." 

Another letter, which we received from a soldier who 
asked us to forward it to his former wife in prison, was very 

Hello, Gert: 

Remember me, your ex-husband? I thought it will not be fair 
if I leave the U.S.A. without saying goodbye; and letting you 
know how I made out on the divorce. 

I got a five-day extension on my pass, went back to camp and 
got the divorce using the picture of you and Frank taken at New 
Grove on Labor Day. Remember? He had his arm around you 
then, as evidence. I found the picture as I was cleaning the house. 

I didn't use Pete's name, at all, even though I know all about 
"the miss" [ miscarriage J you had of his the first week of June. I 
saw him in the bar and gave him your address, but he said he 
didn't want it now. I guess the people were right. They said all 
he wanted was your $120 a month anyhow. 

The only girlfriends you have are Peg and Martha. They were 
the only two who refused to say anything about you. Gwen- 
dolyn told me everything that happened while I was gone: that 
Joan and Eric don't belong to me anyway only Skippy that 
Joan is Frank's kid and Eric belongs to Doc. 

You told every one of your friends you were expecting but I 
loved you too much to listen then. That is why I asked you to 
stay home the thirty days I was home and not leave me alone as 
I didn't want to know but you couldn't be true for thirty days 

Did I ask too much then? 

I have sold one-half the furniture. I still have $836.44 to pay on 
your bills. I gave all your clothes away to the cleaner to pay 
his bill. I'm leaving in the morning for Camp Stoneman, Cali- 
fornia. I'll send you my address if you still want to write. I have 
enough points to stay out but I think I'll stay in another year to 
try to pay off these bills. 


I'll keep the kids until I can't support them, and love them as if 
they were my own. When I can't support them, I'll send two of 
them to the state, but "Skippy," I'll always keep him. 
Well, honey, be a good girl, and don't lie too much 
I'll be in Korea, for Christmas. 
Be good 

Remember your husband, 


This letter tells enough of the whole story. Need we 
wonder what causes crime when we know of children left 
to start life this way? This is not an unusual situation, either. 
The day never ends without a similar case of gross neglect 
passing my desk. I was present one night at a biweekly meet- 
ing of a local Community Chest and Council in a fairly large 
New England town. The meeting was an informal one of 
serious-minded citizens bent on understanding the problems 
of their community and trying to better their town and the 
life of everyone in it. There were about twenty persons 
present, including the guest speaker, the superintendent of 
schools, and a school principal. The discussion was intimately 
direct. The topic had been "Recreational Facilities," and 
there was much frank and direct discussion about damage 
done to existing facilities, the reasons for the damage, those 
perpetrating it, and possible community action to guard 
against the continuance of such behavior. 

The superintendent of schools, a man with excellent aca- 
demic training and experience, spoke: "It's perfectly clear that 
it's that 'Arkansas Gang.' Every boy I've kicked out of school 
this year has been in with that bum they call 'Arkansas.' I'm 
disgusted with the entire town and the police force particu- 
larly. I've asked them time and time again to send that whole 
gang away and they haven't committed one yet!" 

The high school principal added, "That's just what I say, 
too. When they send them away, they'd better keep them 
there permanently because they're all no good!" 

It's Up to You 235 

These two schoolmen were well paid to plan and direct 
the education of our next generation of citizens in one of the 
area's more progressive towns. Their honest, informal opinion 
was that all youth must conform to uniform educational 
standards set by the school authorities or be branded hopeless 
failures to be "kicked out of school" and eventually "sent to 
jail" by the police. I assume that being "sent up indefinitely" 
probably meant for life so that the youths would not be a 
problem for the schools or for the community. 

I was shocked by such statements from civic leaders and 
startled by the apathetic acceptance of their opinions by all 
the Community Chest members present. These outstanding 
citizens, studying the problems of their town, sat silent and 
unmoved by the announcement that a group of unstable boys 
should be cast off by the schools and literally run out of town 
by the police department. Yet this group is typical. When 
people band together to do good, they want to create some- 
thing tangible baseball diamonds, playgrounds, and parking 
facilities. Take any project that produces something people 
can see, and almost everyone will join in. Bring up a problem 
that reflects society's failure and no one even wants to hear 
about it. 

Potential crime exists in every broken home, in every un- 
wanted child, in every schoolroom where a child is retarded 
or ridiculed as a misfit. That tragic potential exists in every 
town, but so does a powerful weapon to fight it a school 
system led by people who make use of the intelligent guidance 
of educated personnel to investigate the students who fail and 
to find a remedy for these failures in a sane, sensible, and 
practical manner. Through this efficient medium, the way- 
ward or unadaptable child gets individual attention in a com- 
patible atmosphere while he develops talents with which 
eventually to earn his own livelihood. 

If the public could sit at my desk and talk to the endless 
line of parents coming before us to plead for the "special early 


release" of their children, it would realize that crime is every- 
one's business. It no longer is a problem for the police depart- 
ment to handle alone. 

Until our public and private consciences are aroused and 
educated to our responsibility for those of us who have failed 
and become criminals and other outcasts, those failures will 
continue to multiply and innocent individuals will still be 
victims of their rash acts. In contrast, the child who is loved 
at home, who is wanted and feels secure, does not suddenly 
grab a gun and go lusting for excitement. Violence and 
instability like that are almost always the culmination of long 
years of neglect, sorrow, loneliness, and bitterness produced 
by broken homes, or pampering and spoiling by the over- 
indulgent parent. 

It must be kept constantly in mind that the great majority 
of women sent away by the courts will need assistance from 
time to time all their lives. Some get rested and cleaned up 
so they can work out their own lives under the guidance of 
a stronger individual like a husband, mother, sister, brother, 
or daughter. Such prisoners have learned the value of co- 
operating and are not likely to become enmeshed in tragedy 

But most, although they may not run afoul of the law, will 
need constant, trained guidance. This may come from some 
clergyman, a town welfare officer, the veteran's agent of the 
husband, or the psychiatric worker from the Family Society, 
and last, but indeed not least, the Alcoholics Anonymous 
groups. These organizations call on the services of any of a 
hundred capable persons living in nearly every community. 
It is tragic that so few people who need them know where 
to find them or have the will to seek their help and guidance 
in time. Both private and public social agencies offer splendid 
services that too often go unused because potential clients 
do not ask for them. 

The middle-income group especially seems to resist working 

Its Up to You 237 

with social agencies. People in this group seem to feel such 
help is just for the poor, that one has to be a certified pauper 
before becoming eligible for help from public or private 
agencies. How far from reality this point of view really is! 
I am frequently alarmed to see how little these agencies are 
used and what general ignorance of their true functions exists 
even in our department. Through the years we have main- 
tained a continual policy of educating our staff and the released 
girls to the help available to all types of people. We have had 
marked successes which we know we could not have achieved 
otherwise, but we realize we still have a long, long way to go. 
There is no true measure of success for any social worker. 
How is anyone ever going to know what grave crime may 
have been averted by the proper guidance offered to the 
potential malefactor at the psychological moment? Nor is 
there any rule for achieving success. We do know that with 
the average criminal, a severe crime is not his first exhibition 
of unstable or irregular behavior and the severest crimes are 
committed by the seasoned or hardened offender. The recidi- 
vists in any of the large institutions contaminate the first 
offenders if these two groups are allowed to mingle freely. 
To remove a first offender from the influence of the vicious 
and incurable criminals, the parole authorities harness every 
resource at their command to get a first offender out of prison 
and established in the community as early as possible. 

Once when we were at the Reformatory for a regular hear- 
ing one of the research officers asked us if we could find time 
to talk to a priest during the lunch hour. Since he had come 
a long distance to discuss the possibility of an early release for 
one of his parishioners, we naturally welcomed the oppor- 
tunity to talk with him. We discovered that the elderly priest 
was deeply concerned about Beatrice, who was the wife of 
a coal man (who had been employed at the same job for 
twenty-two years) and the mother of ten children. She had 


been committed to the Reformatory the previous month for 
neglecting her children. The cleric could not understand the 
charge, and neither could we as we listened to the information 
he had about the background of these obscure parishioners. 
He felt it was a mistake that conclusive court action could 
have been taken in this case, before the probation officer or 
the nurse had discussed the entire family picture with him. 
His interest centered chiefly on the problem of Beatrice's 
fifteen-year-old Inez, who had assumed the mother's role in 
the family. Three younger children had been placed tem- 
porarily in a boarding home, and the sorely neglected baby 
was still in a local hospital while Inez cared for her father and 

the other children, all of school age. Father W was afraid 

that Inez, who was above average mentally, would be so 
loaded down by family duties she would not be able to return 
to school. 

In early July when the priest first spoke to us, Beatrice had 
been committed so recently that the material for the usual case 
study had not been assembled. We readily agreed to look into 
her case and set in motion all the departments necessary to 
accumulate the information. By the time of our August meet- 
ing, we had a complete picture of Beatrice, and it completely 

substantiated what Father W had told us. The father 

never drank but worked long hours to bring home his pay 
regularly and provide a steady income. The institution's tests 
of Beatrice indicated that she was feeble-minded; in fact, with 
an IQ of 55, she was so dull that it was doubtful if she could 
ever learn more than simple, manual chores. 

The circumstances of arrest were a surprise to husband, 
family, and priest alike. Fortunately, the case had not been 
given newspaper publicity. It was held in the lower court 
and, as no appeal had been taken, there was little material 
available. The accumulated story ran somewhat as follows. 

The district nurse or the school nurse (who make constant 
calls where there are many children, new babies, infectious 

Its Up to You 239 

diseases, etc.) called frequently at Beatrice's home and always 
found the family living in such primitive conditions that the 
children, dogs, and hens all were constantly in and out of the 
kitchen. There was plenty of food, although it was never 
prepared as the average person sees it. If the children were 
large enough to rush in and grab a chunk of bologna or a heel 
of bread off the table, they could satisfy their hunger all right, 
but from the time they were weaned by their mother until 
they could fend for themselves, their existence was hazardous 

About a year earlier, when the district nurse called at the 
house, she found the nine-month-old baby in a tragic state 
of malnutrition. Its poor legs were as gaunt and its abdomen 
as distended as those of the wretched children rescued from 
European concentration camps. Beatrice was taken to court 
and found guilty of neglect and placed on probation, while 
the baby was placed in the Children's Hospital and brought 
back to normal after months and months of expert care. The 
woman probation officer had a long uphill grind working with 
Beatrice, because in addition to being feeble-minded, she 
"had no English." All interviews had to be conducted through 
the father or one of the children. 

Late in the spring a Public Health nurse was checking a 
male escapee from the County Tuberculosis Hospital and by 
chance found him hanging around a garage and gas station 
next door to Beatrice's home. At the garage the nurse learned 
that when the older children were at school and the husband 
at work the escapee would climb through the bathroom 
window and stay with Beatrice for the entire day. This man 
had active T.B. and the Public Health nurse reported this 
fact to the probation officer. Together they made a call. They 
found no evidence on which to bring a new charge, but the 
court felt that the dangers of both moral and physical neglect 
warranted the termination of probation. The court sent 
Beatrice to the Reformatory for a two-year sentence for 


"neglect of ten minor children," and the would-be lover was 
returned to the sanatorium. 

The supervision and help that parole offered Beatrice could 
not continue beyond the end of her sentence, but it was 
obvious that, with her limited endowment, her predicament 
was permanent. Therefore we made an all-out effort to co- 
ordinate every available community resource before actual 
release so that we would have a well-developed plan in opera- 
tion during the parole period that would continue when we 
had to withdraw. 

The women Parole Board members invited Father W , 

the probation officer, the two nurses (to plan the child care 
and family health program), the husband, our own field agent, 
and our supervisor to a staff field conference. The poor hus- 
band did not understand how dull his wife was. He was sure 
she simply would not learn to budget his money and buy 
proper food and clothes. He could not realize that she could 
not and never would be able to understand. 

Father W contributed the single item which started 

the whole plan ticking. He said he would have two young 
Italo-American girls, high school graduates and white-collar 
workers, go into Beatrice's home regularly. These girls be- 
longed to the Legion of Mary in his parish and were to go 
once a day for the first week, and twice a week thereafter for 
as long as their services were needed. They would co-operate 
with the parole agent, and, since they could speak Italian, they 
would explain to Beatrice what her agent wanted her to do. 
The husband interrupted at this point to ask if these girls 
would also help his wife with her weekly shopping. Of course, 
they would be willing. Out of this conference came one of 
our best working plans for rehabilitation. With the frame- 
work of this plan mapped out, the Board voted to see Beatrice 
when we went to the Reformatory for the August meeting. 
We wanted our plan to be in operation before the school re- 
opened in September. 

It's Up to You 241 

At her hearing Beatrice was in tears, convinced she had 
done no wrong, and unable to understand why she had been 
taken from her children. Using slow, simple sentences, we 
explained that she was going home on a special early parole. 
Beatrice happily agreed to listen to her husband, Father 

W , and her agent, but we could see that she was very 

resentful toward the Public Health nurse, on whom she 
blamed her commitment. We persuaded the Health Depart- 
ment to send another nurse on any necessary home visits and 
released Beatrice before school started. 

She did so well with her school-age children in the first 
few months that at Christmastime all her children came home 
permanently. Parole supervision ended about eighteen months 
later, but one private and two public agencies kept up their 
work with her. They made her understand that she had 
enough to do in caring for her family. She was not to seek 
society at the garage which would only get her into trouble, 
and she was sure that she did not want to get into trouble 

Sufficient attention was brought on the case by the court 
action so that the pastor and his volunteer helpers now have 
an authoritative appraisal of the entire situation. They never 
could have acquired this authority on their own initiative, for 
any private agency must await the appeal of the client before 
entering a case. The public agencies are authorized to act 
under statute and may do so in the initial steps. 

It is regrettable that in a case of this nature conditions had to 
go to extremes before anyone started remedying them. Some 
interested party might have taken the initiative to inform the 
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which in 
most states is empowered to investigate any complaints and 
if necessary start court action. The S.P.C.C. does splendid 
case work, and few people realize how many cases it takes on 
and brings to a successful conclusion without having to resort 
to law or court action. I am also surprised how few know that 


the S.P.C.C. is granted immunity in the courts, and does 
not, even under oath, have to divulge the identity of the 

If the average citizen could realize how true the old adage 
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" really is, 
he would react very differently to explosive situations. In- 
stead of waiting for disaster to strike, he would take the 
initiative and go to any clergyman, police officer, or social 
worker to ask for advice. If the trouble springs from al- 
coholism, he would speak to a member of A.A. Such early 
action could save numberless homes, salvage marriages, pro- 
tect children from disaster and start them on the way to useful 
and happy lives. People do not flout society's rules just be- 
cause they want to, but because a highly complex interplay 
of social, psychological, and cultural forces is working on 
them. Most of those forces can be properly directed by giving 
the unstable individual sympathetic help before he reaches 
the breaking point. 

Our work, alas, comes after the disaster. We pick up the 
pieces and start again, helping women patch up their future 
lives and the lives of their children; and we try to leave our 
clients with the knowledge and understanding that there is 
always someone to help them if they only will come and 
ask. We try to teach each girl this while she is on parole. It 
is extremely interesting as the years go on to see how many 

That is why I have loved every minute I have worked with 
the girls on parole. They have all met failure in the past, and 
most of them want desperately to overcome it in the future. 
We on the Parole Board can help, and we know we do help. 
There will always be the Sylvias, who will revel in the 
trouble they cause, but as I look back, my memories of them 
fade. Instead I think of Eloise, happily married to her hand- 
some Marine; of Marcella, the haunted killer of her own 
children who found a better life; of Harry and Martha, who 

It's Up to You 243 

drank their way to disaster and fought their way back; and of 
Lillian, who refused a blood transfusion so others could have 
a chance at life. They are all fine citizens now, and there is 
no greater satisfaction in life than helping them on their way. 
But we want help your help. We welcome mature 
community interest in our charges. They need the encourage- 
ment, the jobs, the suitable places to live in, and the all- 
important sense of "belonging" that such interest can mean 
for them. Many of you are meeting the challenge and helping 
to integrate parolees into the community, but many more of 
you will have to join the work if we are to have an effective 
reintegration program. In the last analysis, it's really "up to